UN Special Envoy hails rollout efforts

MALAWI: UN Special Envoy hails rollout efforts


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The number of child-headed households increasing as parents succumb to AIDS

JOHANNESBURG, 1 Nov 2004 (PLUSNEWS) - UN Special Envoy for AIDS in Africa Stephen Lewis has expressed confidence in Malawi reaching its target under the World Health Organisation's (WHO) plan to provide treatment to three million people by 2005.

In terms of the WHO 'three by five' plan, Malawi should have 44,000 people on antiretroviral (ARV) therapy by June 2005, UNAIDS country coordinator Erasmus Morah told PlusNews.

Lewis wrapped up his visit this weekend and was generally positive about the country's efforts to roll out ARV drugs.

"Essentially, after having a number of high level meetings, conducting field visits and discussions with technical officers and the UN family, Lewis believes that it is possible that Malawi can reach the 'three by five' objective of putting 44,000 people on treatment by June 2005, and 80,000 by the end of the 2005," Morah said.

The only obstacles to Malawi's rollout were a shortage of human resource capacity in the health sector and problems with the supply of drugs.

Morah said Lewis had seen that "people are queuing to be treated, so if the drugs are there the country will be able to put a lot more people on treatment".

Lewis stressed that "everything possible must be done to guarantee the supply of drugs to Malawi", but "Malawi's human resource capacity crisis in the health sector has to be addressed - Malawi recently put together a proposal aimed at capacitating the health sector to the tune of US $273 million over the next six years".

The country is currently at the bottom of the health sector capacity scale in Africa.

The United Kingdom's Department for International Development (DFID) has already agreed to support this effort "to the tune of US $100 million, and members of the Malawi Global Fund committee have agreed that up to $40 million of the Global Fund grant (of US $196 million) will go towards capacity building, if the country coordinating mechanism agrees," Morah explained.

Much of the human resource plan focussed on retention schemes that would increase the allowances being paid to certain categories of health staff by between 50 percent and 100 percent. "If the human resource issues [start being] addressed, Lewis' position is that Malawi should have no problem putting 80,000 people on treatment by end of 2005," he added.

Malawi has plans to roll out ARV treatment in 54 locations by June next year. "They are ready to go to 30 of those [locations] as we speak, but what's holding it up now is the shipment of drugs. The rollout has commenced in six locations and we are hoping to reach 20 by end of November, with the next shipment of drugs [expected this month]," Morah said.

Lewis also highlighted the plight of Malawi's rising number of orphans and vulnerable children (OVC), and Morah noted that President Bingu wa Mutharika was set to launch the first national plan of action on OVC later this month. "The budget for this plan is in the neighbourhood of $168 million - it's the first comprehensive look at the OVC problem."


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