Problems with PEPFAR supply chain 'should scare all of us,' says US global AIDS chief

Deborah Birx, the United States global AIDS coordinator. Photo by: The Bush Center / CC BY-NC-ND

WASHINGTON — Deborah Birx, the United States global AIDS coordinator, said Tuesday that problems with the supply chain that supports the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief signal a need for greater accountability of the global health initiative’s resources.

“It should scare all of us that 15 years into PEPFAR we’re talking about problems with the supply chain, because I can tell you, we’ve invested about $3 billion to $4 billion in the supply chain,” Birx said at the Bipartisan Policy Center in Washington, D.C. “So clearly we have to be honest, there are certain things that didn’t go well, and now we need to fix those, and we need to hold ourselves accountable,” she added.

In August, Devex first revealed that the $9.5 billion global health supply chain funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development was failing to deliver an acceptable percentage of its shipments “on time and in full.” The supply chain project’s implementer, Chemonics International, has undertaken a wide range of corrective actions to turn the project’s performance around.

“I think there is an increased level of accountability that is needed, both at the programmatic level and with us in our relationship with countries to really see impact for the dollars invested,” Birx said.

“We’re very serious about that, and countries have been very serious with us to really change how the U.S. taxpayer dollars are utilized in country,” she added, describing the “moral obligation” she feels to ensuring American taxpayer dollars are put to good use.

“We shouldn’t hide behind our great accomplishments … Every day we need to do better with the dollars that are entrusted to us, and I think that’s the privilege of working for government, but it’s also the obligation,” Birx said.

What's the future of U.S. aid and development policy under the Trump administration? Read Devex coverage on U.S. aid.

About the author

  • Michael Igoe

    Michael Igoe is a Senior Reporter with Devex, based in Washington, D.C. He covers U.S. foreign aid, global health, climate change, and development finance. Prior to joining Devex, Michael researched water management and climate change adaptation in post-Soviet Central Asia, where he also wrote for EurasiaNet. Michael earned his bachelor's degree from Bowdoin College, where he majored in Russian, and his master’s degree from the University of Montana, where he studied international conservation and development.