Thursday, February 3, 2011

The Global Fund

Diseases like Tuberculosis, AIDS and Malaria are not just found in poor countries but can be a direct cause of that poverty as they take up valuable healthcare resources, reduce manpower and deter tourism. Many African countries have been heavily hit by all three of these diseases and it is often impossible to consider them independently.

The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria was created to dramatically increase resources to fight three of the world's most devastating diseases, and to direct those resources to areas of greatest need. Since its creation in 2002, the Global Fund has approved funding of $ 21.7 billion for more than 600 programs in 150 countries.

Unfortunately the Global Fund is in the news recently for all the wrong reasons. Can the Global Fund weather the corruption storm?
Until a few days ago, the Global Fund to fight Aids, TB and Malaria had the enviable reputation of being one of the cleanest and safest channels of donor money to the poor in the developing world. Everybody knows there is corruption in Africa - but it never tainted the Global Fund. But now Germany, the third biggest donor to the fund after the US and France, has suspended the €200m it pledged for 2011, asking for an investigation into the fraud and misuse of money in four countries - Mauritania, Mali, Zambia and Djibouti. Ireland has also put its wallet away for the moment, delaying a decision on whether to continue its donations to the fund.
The total amount of money involved is US$34m. That is 0.3% of the $13bn the fund has dispensed for disease-fighting programmes since 2007. 
So given that 0.3% ended up in the wrong hands is pretty good going - as many an NGO or business working in Africa will tell you. This should have been a storm in a teacup. But the agency story was followed up by Fox News, which laid into the fund with both fists.
But the real fear for the fund's supporters will be that the storm may have been whipped up by those who want the US to slash its spending on foreign aid and will not only have the Global Fund in their sights, but also the UN. The Global Fund is already short of the money it hoped it would have to pass on to developing countries in the next two years. If the US cuts back, there can be no doubt that the cost will be measured in lives.

This is very depressing news. There is broad agreement between both democrats and republicans in this country that government spending needs to be cut. But no-one can agree on what should be cut. With one exception - there is strong public support for cutting foreign aid

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