I REFER to the letter “An embarrassment to miss out on funding” (The National, Nov 25) by “Disappointed”.
This is to clear the misconceptions and incorrect information the writer had highlighted.
Let me clarify the core principles of Global Funds for HIV/AIDS, TB and Malaria (GFATM).
The following are GFATM principles:
1. It is a funding mechanism and not a technical assistance agency;
2. The proposals that PNG submitted are country-driven and programmes country-owned and implemented;
3. The GFATM has broad stakeholder input through the country coordinating mechanism-linked to country strategies;
4. The GFATM is intended to promote and strengthen an effective partnership between public and private sectors to ensure sustainability – building on existing mechanisms;
5. The GFATM is a performance-based funding; and
6. The funds from the GFATM are additional and are not supposed to replace the funding from the Government and other partners.
I have to state here the writer does not fully understand how the GFATM operates.
The following are clarifications:
1. Total funds PNG has received
PNG received funds totalling US$29,957,420 in round four and not US$20,806,739 in round five as stated by the writer.
2. The available funds available
The total approved for round nine is US$5.12 billion, with US$1.99 billion approved for the first two-year period. A total of 159 applications worldwide was made; 85 were approved, 54 of these will proceed to negotiation over the next year; 31 submissions have been approved “in principle” but require significant clarifications/changes and will be dependent on the availability of resources. In terms of cost, the HIV grants approved represent 44% of the total value approved, with TB and malaria each on 28%. And PNG did not apply for US$2 billion as the writer stated. In fact the national programme does not have the capacity to implement this sort of amount.
3. Status of PNG round nine submission
Yes, PNG did not get any funding in round nine but that does not mean that GFATM will not continue to support our STI and HIV/AIDS programme. We have an existing grant with funds that PNG continues to receive as part of the round 4 successful proposal that will expire in August 2010. And we have been told to submit to the GFATM “Continuation of services facility” – for two years that will end in 2012 where critical and essential components of the current round four will continue to be funded. For the writer to say that PNG had no excuse whatsoever because it has been receiving funds from the GFATM is totally incorrect. The PNG submission was assessed independently in the same way as all the submissions from the other countries. We are willing to share the feedback and comments from the technical review panel (TRP) of the GFATM with the writer.
World-wide, only 47% of HIV submissions were successful, compared with 61% of TB applications and 55% of malaria, so PNG is not alone. In fact, in the Pacific region, Solomon Islands (application for US$17.2 million) was also not successful while Fiji’s “health systems strengthening” component (US$2.075 million) was successful but its “disease” part (US$11.033 million) was not.
4. Funds used by the Health Department and the programme provided by GFATM
The writer’s allegation that previous funds have been misused/abused is not true. The GFATM funds are audited every three months by a local fund agent appointed by the GFATM and the project funds are audited annually by the auditor-general as per government accounting requirements when using public funds. It just indicates that disappointed does not understand the transparency and accountability processes that have been put in place by the Health Department and the GFATM before the funds are released to the country by the GFATM.
5. Donors pulling out a result of the PNG not receiving funds from round nine
For the writer’s information, most of the major partners and donors supporting the national programme were part of the core team that worked on the round nine submission. And unless the writer is a donor, he/she can take his/her money away because we do not need his/her money.
For the writer’s record, the STI and HIV/AIDS programme is not an independently managed programme. It is part of the national health system and what is lacking in the health system that has been neglected the government all these years also affects the implementation of the national STI and HIV/ AIDS programme. At the same time, the PNG round nine submission was assessed in the broader scope of the health system in the country.
We have strategies to minimize the fallout of PNG not getting the necessary funds in round nine and our track record of managing risks will certainly ensure that we continue to manage the national programme to ensure that we minimise the national and crossing impact of the HIV epidemic on the population of this beautiful country.
I urge the writer be man enough to identify himself as we in the national programme have nothing to hide as we strive to deliver STI and HIV/AIDS services to the rural majority and the urban poor in tandem with all our partners both local and international.
Dr Daoni Esorom
Principal technical adviser STI and HIV/AIDS and Global Fund programme manager