|Funding threatens HIV/TB fight|
|Tuesday, 25 October 2011 22:00|
GOVERNMENT has been urged to urgently address funding woes for the health sector in the wake of drastic cuts in the Global Fund for the Round 11 disbursements and postponement of initiating dates.
Co-ordinator of the Country Co-ordinating Mechanism for the Global Fund Mr Rangarirai Chiteure said following changes adopted at the Global Fund board meeting in Switzerland at the end of last year, the country has had to revise its Round 11 application budget downwards to US$40 million for HIV and US$20 million for TB programmes.
Under Round 8 whose funding runs until 2014 Zimbabwe was granted US$296 for HIV and US$58 million for TB. Zimbabwe is now looking at a cut of almost US$300 million or 70 percent. The new deadline for submitting round 11 proposals has been moved to at least March 2012 and as a result disbursements for approved programmes will be correspondingly late compromising continuity. Mr Chiteure revealed that the developments were not peculiar to Zimbabwe as the cut backs would affect all countries receiving funding from the Global Fund.
The Global Fund is an international organisation formed to fight HIV, TB and malaria with money sourced from private donors. Malaria is the only component that got a grant in the round 10 disbursals for this country.
The three diseases are a major problem in the developing world with Sub-Saharan Africa considered the epicentre of HIV and TB.
According to National Aids Council statistics Zimbabwe currently has an estimated HIV prevalence rate of around 14 percent with over 500 000 people needing ARVs from the public system, which relies heavily on funding from the Global Fund.
Zimbabwe is ranked in the top 20 countries with a high TB burden with an estimated 70 percent of people living with HIV being co-infected with the TB bacilli.
Mr Chiteure said there was need for stakeholders to immediately start planning for the country to fund its own health system or face a humanitarian disaster of unimaginable proportions after 2014:
"In the past we applied to the Global Fund based on our needs but now we have had to tailor our proposal to what is available. What it means is that there has been a need for serious streamlining and a real look at what the priorities are.
"But the bottom line is that a lot of other money will be needed to keep the various key programmes like ARV procurement going."
The Aids levy has contributed only a small portion of the overall HIV fund due to high unemployment rates and minimal earnings of most workers. NAC has suggested an introduction of a VAT like collection system to widen the revenue base and also ensure that players in the informal sector contribute to the national programme. Zimbabwe has been sourcing ARVs from as far afield as India with the local pharmaceuticals companies being said to have priced themselves out of the market, thus little capacity building has been initiated in the period of Global Fund disbursements. Although people living with HIV are the most vulnerable, every citizen will likely feel the gap in funding for the health delivery system which is still in recovery mode after the economic meltdown and the transitional polarisation period.
With major natural disasters like tsunamis and earthquakes striking the world over, there has been a noted donor fatigue syndrome in the western countries, the traditional sources of humanitarian aid to the developing world.
Developing world governments and societies have been repeatedly urged to wean themselves from donor dependency and develop sustainable programmes, which can survive beyond externally funded periods.