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Red Cross programme threatened by funding

Dr Mukesh Kapila, 
Special Representative of the Secretary General (HIV/AIDS)
International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies.
Dr Mukesh Kapila, Special Representative of the Secretary General (HIV/AIDS) International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies. (IFRC)

A major campaign by the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies to scale up its HIV and AIDS programmes in Southern Africa is being threatened by a looming funding shortfall.

In October last year the organisation launched an appeal to raise US $300 million for the expansion of its HIV/AIDS efforts over the next five years. According to Françoise Le Goff, head of the regional delegation, based in Harare, Zimbabwe, contributions from donors have so far reached only about 20 percent of that target and are spread across the region, meaning that programmes in some countries are more at risk of disruption than others.

Botswana, Zambia and Lesotho are likely to be most affected by the funding gap.

"All these platforms that we have been developing over the last few months to absorb this money, and to make sure we deliver services to more beneficiaries, are threatened," said Patrick Couteau, health and care advisor for the Federation's global HIV and AIDS programme.

According to Couteau, funding for several countries is likely to run out by the end of February. During the months it takes for the Federation to secure new pledges from donors and for those funds to reach programmes on the ground, staff may go without salaries, orphans without food and psychosocial support, and home-based care patients without assistance.

The Federation's expanded HIV and AIDS programme eventually aims to reach over 460,000 orphans and vulnerable children (OVC) with support; 250,000 infected people with home-based care; and 50 million people with prevention programmes.

"The programme is not at all over-ambitious in comparison with the needs of the people who are affected by the epidemic in this region. The programme only targets about 10 percent of those needs," said Couteau.

"We very much appreciate the very significant sums of funding for HIV that are coming from donors," emphasised Dr Mukesh Kapila, the Federation's special representative for HIV and AIDS. "But we have a concern that these global funding mechanisms are not reflecting the way in which the international assistance community, including the Red Cross, is actually organised in practice."

Donors' funding cycles vary in duration and the time it takes for them to disperse money and often don't coincide with the funding cycles of recipients. According to Le Goff, it can take up to two years to negotiate new donor funding and for that funding to reach programmes on the ground.

"This is why it's very difficult for small organisations, because they don't have the capacity to plan so far in advance," she said. "We're a big oranisation and even for us it is difficult."

In a region where weak capacity to absorb donor funds can create obstacles to scaling up HIV and AIDS programmes, Kapila called on donors to recognise the special role organisations like the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies can play in ensuring that resources reach communities.

"We're talking with the donors to make them aware that the Red Cross system is at their disposal for supporting community-based action," said Kapila. "We're also trying to work at the country level with other partners to define where Red Cross interventions can be most helpful under national AIDS plans."

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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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