Global Fund seeks $5B as money runs out for COVID-19 response

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A health worker checks a woman’s temperature during a COVID-19 check-up campaign in Mumbai, India. Photo by: Francis Mascarenhas / Reuters

MANILA — The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria is running out of funding for its COVID-19 Response Mechanism, and is seeking an additional $5 billion. The initial $500 million the multilateral organization allocated in April was already fully deployed to countries at the end of July.

The additional money is meant to help countries continue their response against COVID-19. The $5 billion is broken down as: $2.3 billion for COVID-19 response; $1.8 billion to protect frontline health workers; $1 billion to help countries’ mitigate the impact of the pandemic on HIV, TB and malaria programs; and $0.9 billion to reinforce health systems, said Melanie Brooks, spokesperson for the Global Fund.

The fund still has €150 million ($177.2 million) from Germany’s pledge back in June, during the Global Citizen summit. But Brooks said this is already being deployed and that it expects the money to run out before the end of September.

The Global Fund allowed countries back in March to also use a percentage of their grants for COVID-19 response. This, on top of the $500 million for the COVID-19 Response Mechanism, allowed countries to access an additional $187 million. However, most countries have already used up the allowed amounts, and the fund expects this source “to be soon exhausted as well,” Brooks said.

Countries made use of the grant flexibilities in a variety of ways, said Chris Collins, president and CEO of the Friends of the Global Fight Against AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria. In Uganda, it helped ensure continued antiretroviral treatment and health services to mothers with HIV and pregnant women through door-to-door delivery of services. In Indonesia, it was used to purchase masks and other protective equipment for frontline health workers, as well as to improve laboratory testing for COVID-19.

Data show funding from the COVID-19 Response Mechanism benefited over 70 countries and multicountry mechanisms. Many countries in Africa receive a chunk of the funding, including Nigeria ($51 million), the Democratic Republic of the Congo ($35.7 million), South Africa ($36 million), and Uganda ($34.5 million). Over 100 countries and multicountry mechanisms also benefited from the grant flexibilities.

In Asia-Pacific, countries that accessed funding from the Global Fund’s COVID-19 Response Mechanism are also in discussions with regional banks and other bilaterals for additional resources on COVID-19, said Rachel Ong, regional coordinator for the Global Fund Advocates Network Asia-Pacific.

She emphasized however that “the crucial issue is not just about what if the C19RM runs out of money, but what is being programmed for expenditures with the available resources.” COVID-19 has exacerbated inequalities in communities, particularly among populations that are vulnerable, living with and affected by HIV, TB, and malaria, many of whom already have inadequate access to health services.

“Our concerns would be how current resources are optimised to achieve impact and to improve health systems for those that are left behind, and where there are legal barriers and criminalisation that prohibits populations from accessing holistic healthcare services,” she wrote in an email.

Global Fund funding helps them to work on strengthening community systems, protecting human rights and gender equality, she said.

While advocates expect U.S. funding of $1.56 billion in financial year 2021 appropriations for the Global Fund to be on track, they are concerned about stalled discussions over U.S. supplemental funding.

“Discussions on the supplemental funding, including an international response, have stalled due to political considerations around domestic programming. It is unlikely that negotiations will ... restart before Labor Day,” Collins wrote to Devex via email.

“This funding is needed as soon as possible as the Global Fund will run out of COVID-specific resources in a matter of weeks,” he added.

Update, Sept. 1, 2020: This article has been updated to state that advocates expect U.S. funding of $1.56 billion in financial year 2021 appropriations for the Global Fund to be on track.

About the author

  • Jenny Lei Ravelo

    Jenny Lei Ravelo is a Devex Senior Reporter based in Manila. She covers global health, with a particular focus on the World Health Organization, and other development and humanitarian aid trends in Asia Pacific. Prior to Devex, she wrote for ABS-CBN, one of the largest broadcasting networks in the Philippines, and was a copy editor for various international scientific journals. She received her journalism degree from the University of Santo Tomas.