The Sunday Mail
Zimbabwe qualified for another round of funding under the Global Fund initiative to support HIV and Aids, tuberculosis and malaria fight. Our Reporter Sharon Munjenjema (SM) interviewed Global Fund country co-ordinating mechanism executive secretary, Mr Oscar Mundida (OM), to get an appreciation of how the fund works. We publish the interview in full.
S.M: Zimbabwe was recently allocated US$500 million under the Global Fund. Can you please tell us more about how the fund works?
O.M: The US$500 490 755 million is money that we will receive from January 2021. It covers a period of three years. The grant we are currently implementing ends in December. The 2018 to 2020 grant was US$483 980 512. Global Fund operates in three-year funding cycles. When the fund comes, it is broken down into semesters.
After a country has used up the semester disbursement, in a specifically approved way, or having exhausted 80 percent of semester target funding, it can get money from the next semester so that it continues its projects.
Every cent that was used has to be accounted for with evidence and receipts. The funds are strictly monitored. All the money comes through the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).
S.M: Has Zimbabwe finished paying up the pledge made at the previous Global Fund conference?
OM: According to the information from the National Aids Council (NAC) we have paid US$800 000.
But for this cycle, the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development has actually said it is going to pay the US$1 million Zimbabwe pledged at the last conference.
It is only the paperwork that is being worked on, but in the next one month or so, the money would have been paid.
S.M: What impact has the Global Fund finances made to Zimbabwe’s health sector?
O.M: About 80 percent of people on anti-retroviral therapy are being supported by the Global Fund. You can imagine, if we didn’t have the Global Fund, what would have happened.
Also, in terms of malaria, some districts are close to near elimination of the disease, especially the western provinces, which is a result of the support from the Global Fund.
The money for malaria goes towards commodities for spraying and that for TB goes towards commodities like lab and gene expert machines as well as medicines.
S.M: Why does the Global Fund demand that a country must raise certain amounts to qualify for funding? Surely, one would not beg if they have the resources. Can you elaborate on the “counterpart finances” that beneficiaries of Global Fund are mandated to raise?
O.M: At the beginning of every funding request, Global Fund enters into an agreement with countries where they have to agree to also honour a financial obligation to their own health sector.
It is usually set at 15 percent of the total grant received by each country.
The money does not go to Global Fund, it is invested by the country into its own health delivery system.
What Global Fund needs before getting into each next funding cycle is that beneficiary Governments have to prove that they meet their counterpart financing obligation.
Grants can be reduced if a country fails to meet their counterpart finances obligation targets.
S.M: How far has Zimbabwe gone in raising its counterpart finances?
O.M: That information is with the finance department in the Ministry of Health and Child Care. They are the ones that know how much they have collected. But on our part, we will find out what the levels are now like.
If we do not meet the target, then the US$500 million we were allocated will be reduced.
We are one of the countries that have always been meeting their targets, but recently, because of the change of currency, it has become a bit of a challenge.
The National Aids Trust Fund used to be sufficient to meet the counterpart financing.
But it is only of late that things have changed because our currency is no longer at par with the US dollar; it has become weaker.
Luckily, in the next grant of 2021 to 2023, according to the allocation letter, they said they have waived the counterpart finances obligation to Zimbabwe, so we are no longer expected to meet the counterpart finances obligation.
I think it is because they have realised the challenges that we are currently facing economically.
They are considerate, they know the implication any reduction in their support means.
We cannot afford to let people who are supposed to be on treatment go without treatment just because we have failed to meet counterpart finance requirements.
But it does not mean that we are going to just relax and not raise money for the health sector.
S.M: What is the future of Global Fund?
O.M: The keyword about the Global Fund financing is sustainability. Countries have to make sure the interventions they are carrying out are sustainable.
Some countries have already started transitioning out of the Global Fund.
They feel they have seen what an ideal programme works like and can do it on their own.
Countries should always be prepared to fund their own health activities.