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World Health Organization

Last modified: 2014-04-17 by zoltán horváth
Keywords: world health organization | who | international organization | aesculapius staff |
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[World Health Organization]
image by Zoltan Horvath, 27 March 2011

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About WHO

The World Health Organization (WHO) is a specialized agency of the United Nations (UN) that acts as a coordinating authority on international public health. Established on April 7, 1948, with headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland, the agency inherited the mandate and resources of its predecessor, the Health Organization, which was an agency of the League of Nations.
Esteban Rivera, 27 March 2011

The Flag

My collection of UN Agencies' flags are based both on William G. Crampton's "Flags & Coats of Arms" and the official logos of each agency.
The blue color is taken from a UN logo at its website:
Blas Delgado Ortiz, 24 June 2000

The World Health Organization coordinates programmes aimed at solving health problems and the attainment by all people of the highest possible level of health. It works in areas such as immunization, health education and the provision of essential drugs.
Blas Delgado Ortiz, 24 June 2000

The use of the flag of WHO by the collaborating centers is regulated as follows:
"A WHO flag can be obtained upon request for use by the centre on certain occasions - and not on a permanent basis - (e.g. on World Health Day, 7 April; on the occasion of any official event related in some way to the World Health Organization) and provided it is displayed in conformity with the WHO Flag Code and Regulations (sent at the same time as the flag)."
Source:, a Word file from which I have extracted the relevant part shown above.
Unfortunately, I have not been able to find the WHO Flag Code and Regulations.
 Ivan Sache, 12 August 2002

The World Health Organization web page shows the emblem with a white serpent, rather than gold.
Ron Lahav, 30 November 2007

I was eager to do a bit more research on this after reading Ron Lahav's comment on November 30, 2007 where he mentioned that the WHO flag had indeed a white logo (the snake) and not yellow. The flag he mentions is it. SourceWikipedia ).
There's an actual flag of the same color scheme seen here.
Now, there's an "Introductory brochure on WHO" (official, ISBN 92 4156313 5) in PDF format ( ) and on the fourth slide one can see an actual picture of a WHO meeting displaying the snake in yellow colors. Image located at: ).
In conclussion, the flag is actually the logo in white (snake also) in light blue background (based on UN organizations color scheme), while the logo has the snake in yellow but can also be in white. However, I have not seen a flag displaying the yellow snake on it.
Now, regarding a variant vertical flag, there's one seen here. Image located at:
The caption reads: "1966, The new headquarters building of the World Health Organization in Geneva is inaugurated." Even though the picture is in b/w, one can infer that the background of that vertical flag is light blue, and it has the UN logo only on top in white, and on the left it reads W H O in white capital letters, and on theright of the
UN logo it reads O M S. This same vertical flag is seen here as well.
The caption reads: "1988-1998, Dr Hiroshi Nakajima of Japan is elected as the fourth Director-General of the World Health Organization."
Esteban Rivera, 27 March 2011

I have some more information about this flag. Hovewer I have not found any official source, but they are some pictorial evidence with yellow snake variant flag.
There are some pictures of flags (taken in front of the Geneva HQ of WHO): at
and at
and: at
and a last one at
(it was taken two years ago in Manila regional HQ.)
It is clearly visible on these pictures that the snake and rod of Aesculapius are yellow on the flag.
By my opinion, the snake, the rod and the inscriptions have a different shade of grey on these pictures, which means that they are not the same colour as map and laurel of UN badge. It could be yellow.
Browsing in WHO related images through the internet, I have not found any image of WHO flag with white snake. Image posted also could be only a graphical rendition of the WHO flag.
Zoltan Horvath, 27 March 2011

I have found the document "The World Health Organization Flag Code and Regulations" (January 1982). Under section 1 of the document, the rod of Aesculapius and the snake are gold in color. The sizes of the flag can either by 2x3 or 3x5 or match the proportions of the member country that it is being flown in (so 1x2, etc.). However, the emblem height must be 1/2 of the hoist (similar to the UN specifications). The document can be found at
Zachary Harden, 22 August 2013