Almost $2 billion are up for grabs, and two Ministry of Health officials are in Beijing to learn how Cambodia can get part of it to fight AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis.
National Malaria Center Director Doung Socheat and Ministry of Health Deputy Director-General Dr Mean Chhi Vun left for China Tuesday to attend a three-day weekend meeting with other health officials from East and Southeast Asia.
The workshop was called by the World Health Organization to help regional governments draw up funding applications to send to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, according to Dr Stefan Hoyer, the WHO coordinator for communicable disease control in Cambodia.
Since the fund was created last year, nations, corporations and foundations have contributed $1.9 billion, with $700 million expected to be disbursed this year. The fund’s first round of grants are to be awarded in late March, Hoyer said.
UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan spent much of 2001 promoting the idea of the Global Fund, which is run by a partnership of public and private institutions. Board meetings have taken place in the past few months in Brussels, Belgium, and Geneva.
Initially, the fund was developed to help sub-Saharan Africa fight the AIDS epidemic that has devastated that region for the last two decades. But tuberculosis and malaria—diseases that also plague the same Third World countries in Africa and Asia where AIDS has spread to large percentages of the population—were added last year.
“These three diseases have a devastating global impact and together are responsible for nearly 6 million deaths a year—10 percent of the world’s total—as well as unimaginable social and economic hardship,” a statement from UNAIDS said.
An outline of the Beijing workshop states countries with a “high burden” of any of the three diseases are encouraged to apply for funding. A 2001 government survey estimated that Cambodia has 168,000 people infected with HIV, the highest rate in Asia. Cambodia has the highest infection rate in Asia for tuberculosis, with one in three people carrying the bacteria that could develop into disease.
Cambodia also has one of Asia’s worst malaria problems. Although the WHO, the European Union and the government have made a concerted effort to monitor and fight the disease—more than a half million mosquito bed nets have been distributed in recent years—Hoyer has said that as many as 90 percent of the country’s deaths from malaria are still not showing up in health statistics because they occur in homes and clinics in rural areas..
Hoyer said a committee made up of Cambodian NGO officials, international donors and government officials will write the funding proposal, which will be sent in coming weeks to the fund’s board of directors.
The committee will also determine where the funding will be spent once the money arrives here, Hoyer said. Whether programs fighting malaria, tuberculosis or AIDS will receive priority has not yet been determined.