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ZIMBABWE: Global Fund grant to come through, finally
April 04, 2005

JOHANNESBURG - After a three-year delay, a US $10.3 million grant to Zimbabwe by the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria is "very close to signing", an official told IRIN on Monday.

"The grant had been approved in principal when Zimbabwe had applied for it in 2002 - unfortunately, there were delays. We are now just waiting for some minor technical details to be addressed," said Jon Liden, spokesman for the Global Fund.

The grant is to be used to "strengthen and scale up disease prevention and care for HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria in Zimbabwe", and was part of the government's application in response to the first round of Fund proposals in 2002.

When Zimbabwe made the application, $17 million was approved - out of a total funding request of almost $23 million - but only about $5 million for the malaria component made its way to the country.

Describing the delay as "unfortunate", Daniel Gapare, director of the Batsirai Group, a Zimbabwean HIV/AIDS NGO, welcomed the Global Fund's decision, saying, "There is a desperate need of funds on the ground."

The UN Children's Fund (UNICEF), which revealed last month that a child dies of an AIDS-related illness every 15 minutes in Zimbabwe, also approved of the Global Fund's decision.

"Zimbabwe had received no or extremely little HIV/AIDS funding support from the main donor initiatives: the World Bank MAP initiative, the Global Fund, or the US President's Initiative on HIV and AIDS (PEPFAR)," said UNICEF spokesman James Elder.

"In Southern Africa, the average annual donor spending per HIV-infected person among these three initiatives is $74, compared to just $4 in Zimbabwe," he added.

The delay in the Global Fund's approval of HIV/AIDS funds for Zimbabwe has been dogged by controversy. "We suspect the delay was political," Gapare commented. Aid to Zimbabwe was frozen by western donors in response to its controversial land reform programme, and as a result of reports of violence and intimidation during the 2000 and 2002 elections.

Last month UNICEF's executive director, Carol Bellamy, called on the donor community to "differentiate between the politics and the people of Zimbabwe".

Last year the Global Fund rejected Zimbabwe's request for $218 million over five years, for "technical reasons." David Parirenyatwa, Zimbabwe's health minister, accused the Geneva-based agency of political bias, which the Global Fund strongly denied.

On Monday Liden again described the allegation as "misplaced and unfortunate. We had to ensure that the money reaches the ground. We have already committed quite a substantial amount of money to Zimbabwe - this grant is also substantial to fight HIV/AIDS in Zimbabwe."

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