Donors Skeptical That President Mugabe Will ‘Fairly, Honestly’ Channel Funds for Antiretroviral Drugs in Zimbabwe
Foreign donors are skeptical that Zimbabwe's "increasingly repressive government" will "fairly or honestly" channel funds for antiretroviral drugs to groups and individuals who need the money, the New York Times reports (LaFraniere, New York Times, 8/12). Earlier this year, the Zimbabwean government announced a pilot project to distribute antiretroviral drugs at no cost to patients in select government hospitals. According to officials, about 70% of patients in Zimbabwe's hospitals are HIV-positive (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 6/22). However, relief workers estimate that less than 1,000 of the 360,000 HIV-positive people in the country who need antiretroviral drugs are receiving them through government or nongovernmental organizations. Neighboring countries are providing drugs to between two and 15 times as many people and are planning to expand treatment to thousands more by the end of this year, according to the Times (New York Times, 8/12). The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria in its fourth round of grants last month rejected Zimbabwe's application for $218 million in funding for its HIV/AIDS program (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 7/28). In addition, fear that President Robert Mugabe's government will improperly spend the money has led the fund to delay the release of a $10 million grant that was approved two years ago, the Times reports. Other donors -- including the World Bank, International Monetary Fund, the United States and Britain -- also have been avoiding providing funding to the country or providing a "trickle of aid compared with the torrent they are unleashing on governments they deem more reliable," according to the Times.
Further Challenges, Implications
Although the few remaining donors often bypass the government by giving aid directly to NGOs or clinics, they may not be able to do so any longer under a draft government bill announced by Mugabe in July that would ban foreign groups involved in "issues of governance" from the country, the Times reports. Leaders of HIV/AIDS charities say the legislation is another sign of the president's tightened control of funding. However, many people have been asking whether it is right to withhold aid from a population because its government is perceived as likely to steal or manipulate it for political ends, the Times reports. "I personally do not comprehend that the donor community could continue to refuse to support people in need for political reasons," Bernard Mokam, program director for the United Nations Development Programme in Zimbabwe, said, adding, "HIV/AIDS should be dealt with as a humanitarian issue." Officials from the Global Fund and other agencies say they are trying to reach as many people as possible without allowing funding to go through governments that are not trustworthy, according to the Times. "They are not spending their money well, so why would they spend ours well?" a European diplomat said (New York Times, 8/12).