November 26, 2011
Global Health Fund Cutting Grants Until 2014
Financial woes have forced a UN-backed organization to eliminate research grants to help combat some of the world's deadliest diseases until 2014, and some of the group's current projects could also be in danger, according to various media reports.
According to John Heilprin of the Associated Press (AP), the Geneva-based Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria made the announcement Thursday, citing worldwide economic woes that originated in the U.S. and Europe.
Heilprin added that an independent panel recommended back in September that the organization "must adopt tougher financial safeguards after it weathered a storm of criticism and doubts among some of its biggest donors." That panel was formed in March after earlier reports that the Global Fund had lost "tens of millions of dollars in grant money because of mismanagement and alleged fraud."
That investigation uncovered $73 million worth of fraud, Telegraph Foreign Affairs Correspondent Damien McElroy said in a November 24 article. Publically, however, they are not listing the "internal corruption" as one of the reasons for the research funding cuts, choosing instead to focus on fund-raising woes, he added.
The organization had requested $20 billion from its donors, and had set a "minimum" target of $13 billion, but had received just $11.5 billion, according to BBC News reports.
The British news organization notes that this is the first time in the Global Fund's 10-year history that it has been forced to cancel their three-year funding period. In addition to economic woes for typical donors, the move also comes because of low-interest rates on its investments, the BBC added.
Furthermore, according to Donald G. McNeil, Jr. of the New York Times, the situation could become worse yet, as "according to Health Gap, an advocacy group pushing for more money for the world´s poor, Holland, Denmark, Italy, Belgium and the European Community have not paid what they pledged. The United States is by far the biggest contributor to the fund, and Republicans in the House of Representatives are seeking to cut donations."
"It is deeply worrisome that inadvertently the millions of people fighting with deadly diseases are in danger of paying the price for the global financial crisis," Michel Kazatchkine, the fund's executive director, told McElroy. Kazatchkine will be stripped of his authority, the Telegraph reports, and a replacement director will be found "fairly quickly," the UK newspaper added.
Meanwhile, other groups will be feeling the effects of the cuts. According to the BBC, the HIV/Aids Alliance could be forced to scale back proposed projects to address the high rates of HIV infection in certain areas of China and South Sudan.
Furthermore, they say that some countries with low HIV treatment coverage, including Kenya, Lesotho and South Africa, have already been refused funding for larger scale programs, and the AP reports that $900 million in grants planned for China, Brazil, Mexico and Russia will now be diverted elsewhere.
"The fund“¦ said that only 'essential' programs in low or middle-income countries would receive more funding to keep them going until 2014," BBC News added.
On the Net: