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AIDS funding flows again

Koloma, a site for displaced people near Goz Beida. David Hecht/IRIN

Almost a year after suspending a grant of over US$20 million for Chad's AIDS and tuberculosis response, the Global Fund to Fight HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria announced this week that it had lifted the sanctions, which had severely disrupted efforts to curb the spread of the HIV epidemic, health officials said.

In November 2006, The Global Fund froze funding for the impoverished West African country worth more than US$ 20 million over five years, following concerns over the misuse of funds and the ability of the recipients to manage the money.

According to UNAIDS country coordinator Claire Mulanga, the money had not been effectively absorbed by organisations, resulting in too few activities being implemented to address the country's pandemic.

"Because we didn't have in-country presence, it is very important that the principal recipients have adequate capacity. This was not the case with Chad," Nicholas Demey, Global Fund communication officer, told IRIN/PlusNews. In addition, "there was some minor misuse of funds", which prompted the Global Fund to take action.

Since then, UN agencies, the government and other development partners have been working to put measures in place "to make sure this doesn't happen in future," he added.

Stricter conditions have been laid down: technical partners will become more involved in the process; the Global Fund Secretariat will be monitoring the principal recipient more closely; and there will also be regular audits and tighter control of expenditure.

"The money that was stolen is now being reimbursed, and the people responsible have been suspended from their functions. Now we need to have the human capacity in place, in order to fulfil the projects," Mulanga added.

Dr Barou Djouater, coordinator of the National AIDS Programme, welcomed the move: "We worked hard to make sure we met all the conditions of the Global Fund; a lot of people have suffered; now the hard work begins."

Chad, which has a HIV-prevalence rate of 4.8 percent, relied heavily on the Fund's resources. "This is a very poor country, and very few donors are willing to invest here, so it was a big, big loss for the country when the grant was stopped. There was no other way to get money for AIDS," Mulanga told IRIN/PlusNews.

Although the Global Fund continued to support the provision of life-prolonging antiretroviral treatment during the suspension, other initiatives, such as the prevention of mother-to-child transmission of HIV, mass awareness campaigns and orphan support projects, ground to a virtual halt.

The war in neighbouring Sudan's western Darfur region has brought growing instability to eastern Chad. Attacks on civilians in the Central African Republic, to the south, have sent waves of refugees into Chad, threatening security in the region.

Mulanga noted that the conflict and instability in the country had also weakened the government's ability to respond effectively to the epidemic. "AIDS is not at the top of the agenda ... the government is more focused on managing the conflict."

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This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information: https://shop.un.org/rights-permissions

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