20 March 2020
GENEVA – The Global Fund announced today that 11 countries have so far used financial assistance from the Global Fund in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Working within its mandate to fight HIV, tuberculosis and malaria and to strengthen systems for health, the Global Fund issued new guidelines earlier this month to provide flexibility for countries to use up to 5% of approved grants to fight COVID-19 and to mitigate the potential consequences of the pandemic on existing programs to fight HIV, TB and malaria.
Under WHO guidance, the Global Fund strongly encourages countries to take prompt action to mitigate the potential negative consequences of COVID-19 on existing programs supported by Global Fund grants. Particular attention should be given to health worker protection, communication with affected communities, maintenance of essential services, supply chain coordination, early replenishment of stocks, disinfection of assets, and waste management.
“The Global Fund was created in response to the last big pandemic that struck humanity: HIV and AIDS. With the COVID-19 pandemic, we know all too well what’s at stake in terms of lives and communities,” said Peter Sands, Executive Director of the Global Fund. “It is absolutely critical that countries respond quickly to the COVID-19 threat, both to contain the spread of the virus, and to ensure that lifesaving programs to fight HIV, TB and malaria continue.”
As with HIV, TB and malaria, the risk is that COVID-19 will fall most on the poorest, the most marginalized and the most vulnerable.
Under the new guidelines, the Global Fund is encouraging countries to redeploy underutilized assets, repurpose grant savings and, in exceptional cases, reprogram funding from existing grants. Activities under the new COVID-19 guidelines include, but are not limited to, epidemic preparedness assessment, laboratory testing, sample transportation, use of surveillance infrastructure, infection control in health facilities, and information campaigns.
All requests for assistance need to consider potential negative impact on the three diseases, and must be approved by the Global Fund. Fast-track decision-making promises a response within 5 working days.
The 11 countries using Global Fund resources from grant savings so far are Belarus, Eritrea, Georgia, India, Kyrgyzstan, Madagascar, Malawi, Malaysia, Moldova, Myanmar and Rwanda.
The Global Fund is working with countries to identify and mitigate the risks of COVID-19 derailing progress on HIV, TB and malaria, whether through disruption of treatment and prevention programs, or disruption to procurement and supply chains. Experience from the 2015 Ebola outbreak in West Africa suggests that unless mitigating action is taken, additional deaths from existing diseases such as malaria can be at least as high as those from the outbreak itself.