ZIMBABWE: New Global Fund grant approval long overdue - NGOs
[This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations]
JOHANNESBURG, 7 October (PLUSNEWS) - The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria has approved around US $105 million to help boost Zimbabwe's ailing health sector.
Lynde Francis of The Centre, an AIDS NGO based in the capital, Harare, described the move as "long overdue", and told PlusNews she welcomed the Fund's decision.
"The approval has come at a time when the nation needs it most, especially in light of the impact of HIV/AIDS on the population. The country has one of the highest prevalence rates in the world," Francis said.
At least one in every four adults is estimated to be living with HIV/AIDS, but only 20,000 HIV-positive people are reportedly receiving antiretrovirals from public healthcare facilities.
Francis, who is also a board member of the Country Coordinating Mechanism (CCM), the body responsible for coordinating the submission of a national proposal for funding, said although the grant application had been approved there were still a few outstanding issues.
"The Global Fund requirements are quite convoluted [and] great care has to be taken in deciding how the funds would be spent. We [the CCM] have the added task of electing the appropriate organisations to work with," she noted.
Aid to Zimbabwe had previously been frozen by Western donors in response to the government's controversial land reform programme, leading government officials to believe that delays by the Global Fund were also politically motivated.
However, Jon Liden, a spokesman for the Fund, told PlusNews that a country's internal politics had never influenced previous Fund decisions.
"Last year the Fund rejected Zimbabwe's request for US $218 million over five years for technical reasons but, with the assistance of UNAIDS, the UN Development Programme and some private sector concerns such as Anglo-American, Zimbabwe was able to submit a truly high- quality proposal. It focused on community participation and expanded access to treatment," Liden explained.
NGOs have also been actively calling on the global community to differentiate between the politics and the people of Zimbabwe, especially children affected by HIV/AIDS. The UN Children's Fund estimates that a Zimbabwean child dies of an AIDS-related illness every 15 minutes.
The grant will be disbursed in as little as six months from now, with anti-AIDS initiatives set to receive more than $62 million, malaria programmes around $30 million, and more than $13 million going to tackling tuberculosis.