The Global Fund will not release a pledged $32.5 million to combat malaria, tuberculosis and AIDS until at least mid-August, when the worst of the malaria season is over, a fund official said Tuesday.
For the money to be released, the Country Coordinating Committee, a group made up of agencies and donors in Cambodia, must provide a plan that meets the Global Fund’s requirements for spending efficiency and responsibility.
At a meeting Tuesday between Global Fund and committee officials, the groups discussed how Global Fund requirements essentially required the committee to design a new bureaucratic infrastructure to meet its requirements for the money pledged in January.
One attendee worried that it would divert too much of Cambodia’s resources into the diseases addressed by the Global Fund. Citing Cambodia’s child and mother mortality rates, he said they were “not due to AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria.”
Thomas Hurley, a fund portfolio manager for the Geneva-based organization, commended Cambodia’s progress, but said the approximately $14.9 million for HIV/AIDS could “realistically” be released in August at the earliest while the almost $10 million reserved for malaria and $6.6 million for tuberculosis could follow shortly after the AIDS money.
Minister of Health Dr Hong Sun Huot expressed gratitude for the money but not with the decision to delay it: “If you would like to help Cambodia, or the Ministry of Health, you have to help us at the moment. Do not make us wait for a long time.”
Dr Duong Socheat, director of the National Malaria Center, said that the delay would not be a major deterrence to fighting malaria during the summer wet season because of “complementary funding” to be provided by USAID and the World Health Organization. He said funding could also come from the government after the elections. “Right now everyone is very busy,” he said.
Dr Seshu Babu, an adviser to the National Malaria Center, said “We have a contingency plan.” Money from alternative aid organizations would go toward education, mosquito nets and other programs over the summer. Expecting the Global Fund money to arrive in September, he said it could be used for the insecticide, required between malaria seasons.
Dr Tia Phalla, secretary general of the National AIDS Authority, praised the Global Fund’s decision because it would force Cambodia to “expand local capacity and responsibility” in the health field.
Among the Global Fund’s requirements are improved pay and incentives for health care workers for which Britain awarded $5 million Tuesday.
British Ambassador Stephen Bridges said the money is part of a British aid package and unrelated to the Global Fund’s requirements.
Responding to that gift, Hong Sun Huot said, $5 million “is not enough to improve health officials’ salaries, though it can cut corruption.”