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IRIN Examines Government Officials, Advocates Reaction To Global Fund Restructuring In Zimbabwe

IRIN examines how government officials and HIV/AIDS advocates in Zimbabwe are responding to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria’s decision to channel funds through the UNDP rather than the government-operated National AIDS Council (NAC). Though the Global Fund is one of the “few remaining international donors supporting Zimbabwe’s HIV/AIDS interventions,” it decided to transfer control of its funds to the UNDP from the NAC after the “Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe admitted diverting over $7 million from the Global Fund’s Round 5 grant, earmarked for scaling up the national antiretroviral programme,” IRIN writes.

Deputy Minister of Health Douglas Mombeshora said he understood that the Global Fund wanted “quick implementation of programmes and greater accountability,” but said that giving UNDP control over funds could stall programs because the money would have to go through the agency’s offshore accounts. “The UNDP will look for suppliers of whatever it is that is required; after finding the supplier the UNDP will then order, and after it receives supplies, forward them to NAC,” Mombeshora said, adding that a better solution would have been to “capacitate” trustworthy local organizations to handle the grants. NAC Director Tapuwa Magure agreed with Mombeshora. He said the development is “retrogressive” (7/6).

VOA News reports that “[m]any HIV/AIDS activists in Zimbabwe have responded positively” to the news. Frenk Guni, a U.S.-based HIV/AIDS consultant, said although some funding delays are inevitable because the UNDP is not an implementation agency, the Global Fund reorganization will help to ensure accountability and transparency. He added that funding delays will be minor (Manika/Nyaira, 7/2).

According to HIV/AIDS activist Chitiga Mbanje, it is “preferable to have greater accountability from the UNDP than no funds at all through the central bank and the NAC,” IRIN writes. “Grant disbursements, even with the NAC as principal recipient, were extremely slow because there were so many political issues at play – it wasn’t as smooth as these officials now want to put it. The most important thing is that from now on, grant money will reach the people who need it most,” Mbanje said.

IRIN reports that Global Fund officials are in Zimbabwe to oversee the handover process. “More than 320,000 people in Zimbabwe are in need of ARV treatment; of the 1.7 million living with HIV, only about 150,000 are obtaining ARVs from the public health sector,” according to the news service (7/2).