The Ugandan government's draft 2013/2014 budget allocates US$38.5 million to enrol a further 100,000 people living with HIV on life-prolonging antiretroviral (ARV) drugs. But activists say the money, while welcome in a country still largely dependent on external funds for its HIV programmes, is not sufficient to meet treatment needs. According to Alex Ario, programme manager at the health ministry's AIDS control programme, the financial gap in the public sector for 2013/2014 is about $29 million. The country enrolled an estimated 65,493 new HIV patients on ARVs in 2012, bringing to 356,056 the number of those on ARV therapy (ART), according to Uganda AIDS Commission statistics. However, this figure represents less than 70% of those in need of treatment. The government has set a target of reaching 80% of HIV-positive people with ARVs by 2015. Ugandan civil society is calling on the government to substantially increase its investment in ART for financial year 2013/14 in order to save lives, slash rates of new infections, and begin to end the AIDS epidemic.
Resource allocation and health financing
European envoys in the Ugandan capital, Kampala, have asked the government to take "expeditious" action against individuals, including senior politicians, accused of mismanaging HIV/AIDS grants. The diplomats were further concerned at the slow implementation of the judicial commission of inquiry report.
The Ugandan Health Ministry has cut its budget to refund about Shs2 billion on behalf of individuals who stole Global Fund money for immunisation of children and financing the health facilities in the country. The directive followed failure by the government to recover the billions stolen from the Global Alliance for Vaccine and Immunisation (GAVI) from the suspects. About Shs1.6 billion was misappropriated in 2006. However, the amount rose to about Shs2 billion due to the exchange rate. But Ministry of Health officials told the Auditor General in his latest report that they acted on cabinet instructions. Mr Samuel Ssenyonga, the Permanent Secretary in the ministry, said that paying back the stolen funds from the public kitty was meant to allow for more funding from GAVI to be released to the country and more time for government to run after the suspects. He also stated that efforts were being made to get those implicated to refund the cash.
Most Ugandans cannot readily access the medicines they need due to the high prices charged. To understand more about what people pay for medicines in Uganda, the Ministry of Health in collaboration with the World Health Organization (WHO) and Health Action International (HAI) Africa conducted a countrywide survey on medicine prices in 2004, and recommended a medicine price monitoring system for surveys to be conducted quarterly. This is the first price monitoring report, presenting the survey results for the October-December 2006 quarter.
The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria and the UK Department of International Development have agreed to appoint a Health and HIV/AIDS Adviser to step up advice, monitoring and liaison between DFID, the Global Fund and Mozambican health authorities. The collaboration will ensure that the Global Fund, as a major financier of the health sector of Mozambique, is kept informed and can provide policy inputs whilst having no staff of its own present in the country. The article describes the work up to and components of the agreement.
Third World Network report a call for a World Social Bank funded by abolishing offshore tax havens. A letter from civil society, sent in advance of the April G20 summit, appeals to United Kingdom Prime Minster Gordon Brown and other world leaders to 'reform international finance in a way that provides a real boost to the growth of the third sector'. About £255bn is said to be lost each year to tax havens, and the funds couold be used for a World Social Bank that could stimulate social investment by developing the infrastructure for an international social investment market, working with private investors to grow this market and encouraging collaboration between different countries.
Aid is ineffective and donors should raise the effectiveness of their aid by reducing the amount of ‘aid’ that is actually spent in donor countries themselves and by reducing the number of sectors and countries each donor tries to support. Thanks to today’s financial crisis, global trade might contract for the first time in decades and demand for poor countries’ exports will decline, while credit dries up, devastating poor producers’ livelihoods. Rich countries should start by eliminating wasteful agricultural policies that only help their own farmers at the expense of poor people elsewhere. Limitations to market access for the poorest and most vulnerable economies must be lifted. Rich countries may promise to provide 100% free market access, but maintain restrictions that make a mockery of their commitments.
The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) has expressed concern that the world has dropped further behind commitments made at a 1994 global conference to invest $17 billion a year on population and reproductive health by 2000. “Given rising demands and HIV/AIDS infections, the mobilization of resources is more critical to the success of the Cairo Programme of Action and the Millennium Development Goals,” UNFPA Executive Director Thoraya Obaid said.
Held in Istanbul, Turkey on 9-13 May 2011, a United Nations summit to assist least-developed countries (LDCs) ended with new pledges, but the results were disappointing, according to this article. The Istanbul Programme of Action, adopted by the Conference, merely states that those countries already providing more than 0.20% of their gross national product (GNP) as aid to LDCs will continue to do so; those which have met the 0.15% target will undertake to reach 0.20%; and others which have committed themselves to the 0.15% target will either achieve the target by 2015 or try their best to do so. This weak statement with its loopholes was rebuked by the civil society groups attending the Conference. The author of this article notes that the Programme of Action seems to contain more commitments by LDCs to take their own actions than commitments by rich countries to assist them, which is a reversal from previous LDC conferences.
The United Nations has teamed up with world leaders to launch a new initiative to strengthen health systems in an effort to reduce the number of women who die in pregnancy and childbirth, one of the eight Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), with a 2015 deadline. The task force on maternal mortality, which will be co-chaired by British Prime Minister Gordon Brown and World Bank President Robert Zoellick, will focus on innovative financing to strengthen health care systems and pay for health care workers. The recommendations that will flow from the group, which will include UN World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General Margaret Chan and several global leaders, will potentially save the lives of 10 million women and children by 2015. They will be presented to next year's meeting of the leaders of the Group of Eight (G-8) industrialised nations, to be held in Italy.