A $15 Billion Target for a Transformative Effect
The Global Fund went public this week with a goal of raising US$15 billion to effectively support countries to fight AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria for 2014-2016. That target was presented as part of an assessment of the global needs for these three diseases at a conference of donors and other partners held in Brussels, Belgium, on 9 and 10 April. Its formal name was the Preparatory Meeting of the Global Fund Fourth Replenishment, since the actual pledging by donors will happen later this year. The meeting in Brussels this week essentially provided information and context to help donors prepare for their own funding decisions. Many delegates at the meeting seemed most captivated by a session on what new science and implementation experience can tell us about improved effectiveness on the ground to fight each disease. Timothy Hallett of the Imperial College in London gave a presentation showing how focused work on specific geographic areas and populations (or “hot spots”) in countries with significant HIV infections has yielded dramatic reductions in infection and deaths. Robert Newman of the World Health Organization outlined the sharp gains, and steep challenges, in fighting malaria. Lucica Ditiu of the Stop TB partnership did the same for TB. Together, the presentations and ensuing discussion made a compelling case for what can be achieved.
There was a clear consensus that expanded funding, from both domestic and international sources, can have a transformative effect in the incidence and death rates for the three diseases, essentially getting us toward a tipping point in controlling the epidemics. There is no question that the Global Fund’s US$15 billion goal is ambitious. Yet Mark Dybul, Executive Director of the Global Fund, quoting Michel Sidibe of UNAIDS, likes to say, “It is invest now or pay forever.” The costs of not acting now, while there is an opportunity to control the diseases, could be staggering. Dybul explained that the Global Fund’s replenishment strategy is to build four strong pillars of support – traditional donors, implementing countries, emerging economies and the private sector – and to coordinate action between them so that they are mutually reinforcing. That is part of a new global health and development paradigm. It recognizes the importance of shared responsibility, and a conviction that only a collective effort of all partners can reach our common goals. In his closing remarks to the conference, Dybul gave a stirring and passionate appeal for everyone to join the effort, to do everything possible to reach new funding goals, because the stakes are so high and the opportunity so rare. “These moments don’t come very often,” he said. “We can achieve a historic change in the world and that is what we are on this planet to do.”
“What Can I Do to Help Replenishment?”
We, as Global Fund staff, often hear this question from our partners in countries that are implementing programs to fight AIDS, TB and malaria. People who work on the ground in health clinics and hospitals are not always aware of the efforts required to raise support – both financial and political – from international donors. Not that they need to be. But in the spirit of partnership and joint responsibility, we want to encourage anyone who can to lend their voice to our replenishment efforts. And we have a few suggestions. They may seem obvious, but they are worth mentioning.
For example: whenever someone – particularly a government official – from a donor nation visits your country, don’t hesitate to mention programs you know about that are supported by the Global Fund, and speak honestly about how they affect people’s lives. But donor governments are not the only ones who need to hear from you. Contact senior officials in your country, make sure they know about programs that are making a difference, and tell them to mention the Global Fund when they are visiting donor countries.
A third suggestion is that every time you are in contact with the media in your country, take every opportunity to tell them how important funding is. And here’s a fourth: If you like to write, consider writing a blog on your website about what a specific program has achieved with support from international partners like the Global Fund or others. If you share your blog or opinion piece with us at email@example.com, we can explore the possibility of amplifying it on our website, or else publishing it more broadly with our partnership with the Huffington Post.
Invest in Health for Sustainable Development
Every once in a while, a specific news article comes along that gets our attention. In a recent issue of the Lancet, one of the world’s leading medical journals, several global leaders jointly signed an article explaining that tremendous gains in development can be made if health is put at the center of development initiatives. The article, titled “A Healthy Perspective: the Post-2015 Development Agenda” was written by leaders of several development agencies: Seth Berkley of GAVI Alliance, Margaret Chan of WHO, Mark Dybul of the Global Fund, Keith Hansen of the World Bank as well as Anthony Lake of UNICEF, Babatunde Osotimehin of UNFPA, and Michel Sidibé of UNAIDS.
“A healthy population is a prerequisite for development,” they wrote. “One extra year’s increase in average life expectancy can increase gross domestic product by four percent.” Through investing in health and expanding access to immunization, for instance, economies in poor countries can be revitalized. Such an effect can be attributed to the fact that “healthy individuals are more productive, earn more, save more, invest more, and work longer.”
The inverse is true, too, as unhealthy people carry a high cost for themselves and for their countries. As an example, the malaria burden estimated by the World Bank to cost Africa about US$12 billion a year. Two years before the deadline of the Millennium Development Goals, the global goals set in the year 2000 need to be recognized for transforming world health and, ultimately, world development. “Fewer children are dying, fewer children are underweight,” the article says. “Fewer people are contracting HIV and fewer women die in childbirth each year.” These improved results are fundamental to promoting sustainable development. “Sustainable development is fundamentally a question of people’s opportunity to influence their future, claim their rights, and voice their concerns.”