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Uganda one of the first countries receiving low cost anti-malaria medicine

To date, the Global Fund to Fight Aids, Tuberculosis and Malaria has committed over 22 billion dollars to battling these three killer diseases across 150 countries of the world.

Last year, the organization was facing a shortfall in its funding, which led to the freezing of certain projects and a crisis among health workers in certain countries. Now the Fund announced it would have an additional 1.6 billion dollars for 2012 to 2014, giving a much more positive outlook for its projects over the next few years.

Some of the extra money comes from new donors or traditional supporters who have increased their contributions. Some has been secured thanks to nations such as China, who have offered to pay for projects in their own country to allow money to be spent elsewhere. Talking about the increase in funds, Gabriel Jaramillo, the new General Manager of the Fund spoke of making sure that donor countries could go back to their taxpayers and show how their money was being used carefully “in these difficult times”. His comments were in part a reference to reports of grants being misused in four countries, which had caused a suspension of support among some governments.

Since he took over as manager, Mr Jaramillo has been reorganising and streamlining the 10-year-old body to strengthen grant management. The UK’s International Development Secretary, Andrew Mitchell, spoke of the “brilliant job” being done by Mr Jaramillo to improve management and financial supervision at the Global Fund. There will also be greater focus on the 20 countries which account for 70% of the global cases of the three diseases. These ‘high impact’ countries will in future receive 70% of the Fund’s grants.

At the end of last month, the Fund launched a new initiative in some of these countries to allow for more affordable and effective anti-malaria medicines to be sourced. Called ‘Affordable Medicines Facility for Malaria’ (AMFm), the new programme helps private stores and pharmacies source malaria medicines for less than one dollar. These medicines normally cost ten to twenty times as much. Among the first countries to benefit from the scheme is Uganda, where over 9.7 million cases of malaria were reported in 2009, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). 16% of deaths among young children (under-five) are due to malaria (WHO 2008), so health experts in Uganda will be hoping much easier access to these vital low cost drugs, with parents not having to walk long distances to reach public health clinics, will cut fatalities among children.

Other countries benefitting from AMFm in this first phase are Cambodia, Ghana, Kenya, Madagascar, Niger, Nigeria and Tanzania. With such schemes and the new funding, Mr Jaramillo believes there is no better investment than in saving lives through disease prevention and treatment.

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