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3/29/2006

Kenyans the Losers in Row With Global Fund

Filed under: kenya — admin @ 4:28 pm

Today is the last day for the Government to account for the Sh9.6 billion grant from the Global Fund for combating malaria, tuberculosis and HIV/Aids. At stake is Sh7 billion, which is part of the money that was released two years ago for seven projects; two for malaria, two for tuberculosis and three for HIV/Aids.

However, the Government has been too slow in disbursing money to the civil society and submitting returns to the fund’s head office in Geneva, Switzerland. In the last two years, only Sh2.5 billion has been disbursed.

The Global Fund is now demanding a technical and financial audit from the Treasury on how the money was used. The Treasury is the principal recipient of the grant, while the Health ministry is responsible for distribution of life-prolonging drugs. However, what was principally a routine accounting procedure has opened a can of worms, leaving the Government shamelessly exposed.

The nagging question that the mandarins at Treasury cannot escape is why they are playing poker with the lives of thousands of Kenyans. It would also be interesting to know why the Ministry of Health has taken a back seat when money meant for strengthening community health structures and capacity for the civil society to combat the three diseases is unaccounted for.

That is why only two projects (both on Aids), out of seven, have been implemented despite the availability of the funds. The point here is that if the funding is suspended the whole anti-Aids campaign, which relies heavily on donor funding, could collapse. This would jeopardise the lives of up to 53,000 people living with Aids and who are depending on antiretroviral (ARV) therapy and many others waiting to join the programme.

Then there is the question of incomplete dosages and drug resistance. The anti-Aids therapy and treatment of TB is wholly tailored on completion of dosages, any interruptions render it useless. That is why the global focus is on linking the management of Aids and co-infections like TB, which is found in a third of the 40 million people living with Aids.

Community based organisations, faith-groups and other non-governmental institutions have been in the forefront of creating awareness on the two diseases and providing support services to the infected. A big portion of the money used has been from donors, including the Global Fund. Yesterday, the Ministry of Health launched the Second National Health Sector Strategic Plan, which is a five-year plan premised on health for all.

The plan has very ambitious targets that cannot be realised if this situation continues. Aids being a national disaster, wholly dependent on donor largesse, it is imperative that the Government lives up to its word. This is especially so because apart from disbursing funds, it is supposed to monitor how the money is used by secondary recipients. If the Government itself can flout the rules, especially on accountability, it is setting a bad and dangerous precedent.

A lot has been said about political interference in disbursement of funds, but what is needed is a strategy and manpower to co-ordinate and oversee such funding. A liaison unit should be established at the Treasury to oversee the implementation of grant programmes. There is also need for a focal point for the civil society, Treasury and Global Fund to assess progress.

The way the current crisis is handled will influence how other donors will treat us. Given the many national disasters facing us it would be a disservice to the nation if the Treasury remains indifferent and the country loses the Sh7 billion funding. The trust of donors and the lives of Kenyans must never be taken for granted.

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