As a consequence of donor governments' failure to fulfill their financial pledges to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, the fund's Board cancelled plans to fund new grants to fight the three pandemics until 2014. The Board also announced it does not have the cash on hand to fund some previously approved grants. This financing shortfall has created an emergency in the international fight against AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria-the world's three leading infectious killers.
"Donors have triggered a genuine crisis in the response to the world's three biggest infectious disease pandemics," said ACTION Director Kolleen Bouchane. "Their failure to make good on their financial pledges to the Global Fund will absolutely mean lives lost. This is a devastating breach of responsibility that will greatly limit access to proven life-saving interventions. It is not clear that the scale of this potential tragedy is fully realized by political leaders."
The emergency comes immediately on the heels of an announcement from the administration of President Barack Obama, which made supporting the rise of an AIDS-free generation an official goal of U.S. policy. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton made the announcement in a high-profile speech on November 8. The U.S. Government is the biggest donor to the Global Fund, providing roughly a third of the fund's total resources.
"In the U.S., all eyes are now on President Obama to step in and respond to this emergency by rallying Congress and other donor governments to fulfill their obligations," said Bouchane. "It is outrageous that the commitments and progress made over the last decade may now be fatally undermined by this funding shortfall, just as we were all beginning to talk seriously about the end of AIDS."
The Global Fund is the world's largest international financier of programs to treat TB and malaria, and the second-largest for HIV/AIDS. January 2012 is the 10th anniversary of the Fund's existence.
In countries fighting these diseases around the world, governments and civic organizations were well into the process of developing proposals to submit to the Global Fund for its upcoming round of grant funding. Proposals were to be reviewed and approved in 2012. The cancellation of new grant-making until 2014 will effectively halt programs that provide basic services to treat AIDS, TB, and malaria in countries most ravaged by the diseases.
In a small country facing major health challenges like Burundi, the impact could prove catastrophic. The Burundi national TB program is almost entirely funded through early grants from the Global Fund and was slated to apply for renewal funding next year. Other countries that were set to apply for new funding to continue expanding services include Botswana, Tanzania, Zambia, Malawi, Guyana, and dozens of others. All will be negatively impacted.
"With the cancellation of new grant funding, the whole fight against tuberculosis in the East African country of Burundi is in danger," said Patrick Bertrand, of ACTION partner Global Health Advocates in France, which has ties to treatment programs across Francophone Africa. "People in Burundi will die unnecessarily from a curable disease as a consequence of this new funding suddenly evaporating. The ensuing drug shortages will almost certainly give rise to drug-resistant strains of TB, which no one will be able to stop from spreading."
ACTION, founded to fight tuberculosis, is an international partnership of advocacy organizations working together to mobilize resources and influence policies to address urgent global health challenges.