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Tuesday 21 February 2006
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CHAD: Worries about AIDS funding crunch after World Bank spat

[This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations]

©  Claire Soares/IRIN

Wall painting in Chad to encourage people to use condoms and stop AIDS

NDJAMENA, 3 February (PLUSNEWS) - Chad's fight against AIDS is set to be one of the main victims if a standoff between the government and the World Bank drags on, senior UN officials have warned.

The World Bank recently suspended all its loans to the impoverished landlocked country because of a decision by President Idriss Deby to tamper with an agreement governing how revenues from its fledgling oil project can be spent.

Chad, which has a HIV-prevalence rate of 4.8 percent, gets two thirds of its AIDS funding from the global lender, and the freeze has struck at a critical time. The current round of HIV projects is due to finish at the end of May and so now, at a time when campaigners should be drumming up funding for the next phase, estimated at US$ 36.8 million, their hands are tied.

"We had helped the government come up with a national AIDS plan for 2006-2008 ... but now we cannot count on the money from the World Bank, everything has been thrown up in the air," Kekoura Kourouma, the head of UNAIDS in Chad, told IRIN/PlusNews in an interview in the capital, N'djamena.

"Chad is already some seven years behind compared with its African neighbours and now we've run up against this," he said.

Even in the best case scenario, whereby the World Bank and the Chadian authorities sort out the spat this month, Kourouma envisages a three-month delay in getting together funding for the next round of HIV/AIDS projects.

During this gap, he estimates that half of the country's HIV-testing centres would be out of action, doctors would not be getting training, and there would be a blockage in supplies of drugs to treat sexually-transmitted diseases and opportunistic infections.

"All together against AIDS" reads the poster painted onto a wall in downtown N'djamena. Officials are worried that row between the World Bank and the Chadian government may hamper the fight against AIDS
"Of course, the longer this goes on, the greater the disruption will be," Kourouma sighed. "And even when it picks up again, it's not like a car where the battery dies, you put another one in and hey presto it's off and running straight away. In this case once you cut the ties, it's hard work building them up again."

Domino Effect?

If a compromise is not reached quickly, one of his big fears is that other lenders - such as the German bank KfW and the African Development Bank - may follow the World Bank's lead and put their funding on ice, thus putting more AIDS projects in jeopardy.

"If KfW, which pays for most of the condoms, and the ADB, which funds projects in the south where the prevalence rate is higher, decide to align themselves with the World Bank, it's obvious what will happen," Kourouma said.

World Bank officials in N'djamena declined to talk to IRIN/PlusNews about the row over oil profits and the impact on aid projects it funds in Chad.

Meanwhile negotiations to resolve the oil dispute are continuing, with officials from the Chadian government and the global lender, which financed about four percent of the US $3.7 billion pipeline in 2000, holding three days of talks in Paris this week.

Chad's amendment to the oil law abolishes the so-called "future generations fund" which sets aside 10 percent of oil profits for use in years to come. It also doubles the amount that goes directly into the Treasury's coffers to be spent as the government chooses.

And it makes security and territorial administration priority spending sectors, meaning the share of the cake for sectors such as health and education gets smaller. This comes hot on the heels of a wave of army defections, a rebel attack on a border town and President Deby's declaration of a state of belligerence with neighbouring Sudan.

"The World Bank Group seeks to establish a mutual understanding of the facts related to Chad's critical needs and budget shortfalls while ensuring that funds reach Chad's poorest citizens," the Bank said in a statement at the end of the Paris talks on Wednesday.

A deal cannot come soon enough for UNAIDS' Kourouma.

"The government and the World Bank need to find an agreement to make sure these 'future generations' are not all infected with HIV," he said.


Recent CHAD Reports
Speaking out for the voiceless,  7/Mar/05
HIV free certificates on sale to woo girls and get loans,  4/Mar/05
"Keep your chin up, Miss!",  14/Jan/05
· AIDS Media Center
· The Global Fund to fight AIDS, Tuberculosis & Malaria
· International Community of Women Living with HIV/AIDS
· International HIV/AIDS Alliance

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