Funds tighten for fighting AIDS and malaria worldwide
Global health leaders are urging the Obama administration to make up a deepening shortfall.
The international financial crisis could set back recent progress in international efforts to combat malaria, AIDS, and tuberculosis, global health leaders are warning.Skip to next paragraph
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They want the Obama administration to make up a deepening shortfall in pledged American funding for the global antidisease campaign and set an example for the developed world.
The United States has yet to approve its 2009 contribution to the Global Fund, the international public-private partnership that since 2001 has become the primary source of funding to fight these three scourges of the developing world. In fact, the US is already $1 billion behind in honoring pledges made under the Bush administration. But if it comes up with even $2 billion of its $2.7 billion pledge for 2009, "I'd be very happy," says Rajat Gupta, chairman of the Global Fund and a prominent international businessman. "We could close the gap."
The "gap" that worries health experts is the shortfall in funding that they say is tied to the international program's success: More developing countries, particularly in Africa, are coming up with effective and popular programs for combating the three diseases. But the successes are actually prompting greater demand, even as developed countries like the US fall behind in meeting their funding pledges.
"It's a different kind of crisis," says Mr. Gupta, who spoke in a conference call to journalists from the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, where he discussed the Global Fund's predicament. "It's the result of a very successful investment strategy."
The gap between funds pledged and eligible programs stands at about $5 billion, he says.
The Global Fund brings together international institutions, developed countries, and major private donors with more than 135 developing countries. It is responsible for one-quarter of global AIDS funding, two-thirds of funding to fight tuberculosis, and three-fourths of all funding for malaria.
The international economic turmoil must not be allowed to sidetrack attention from global health initiatives, especially with many countries in the midst of multiyear programs that are delivering impressive results, say health experts. With a hint of exasperation, some experts note that the world's wealthy are managing to come up with huge sums of money for business bailouts and national stimulus plans.