The Global Fund to fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria says it will resume its assistance to Zambia in the next one or two months. The Global Fund froze nearly $140 million in grant money to Zambia last August because of strong evidence of corruption in the country's health ministry.
The Global Fund says grants for AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria were channeled through Zambia's Ministry of Health. It says it had no choice but to freeze the money after allegations of corruption emerged and investigations into the scandal were launched.
However, Global Fund Director of Communications, Jon Liden assures VOA no life-saving programs have been disrupted. He says the Fund released nearly $20 million for the purchase of drugs for AIDS and tuberculosis, as well as for insecticide treated bed nets to protect people from malaria.
He says not too much has been lost in terms of activities over this time. "What has happened, however, is that both because of the distraction this corruption scandal has caused within the Zambian administration, and because we have had to slow down grant activities down to the core life-saving activities, we have seen a delay and a slowing down of expansion in the fight against AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria in Zambia," Liden said.
Liden says none of the antiretroviral treatments received by 245,000 AIDS patients in Zambia has been cut. He says activities for tuberculosis and malaria have slowed down.
But, the fund has released money for TB drugs and the purchase of 145,000 bed nets before the next rainy season when malaria dangers increase.
Liden says the fund has decided to transfer the management of the $140 million from the Zambian government to the U.N. Development Program. He says the U.N. agency will be responsible for procuring the drugs and bed nets. It will account for all the money.
"In this case, the government will not be able to have a say in this because we are very clear that the Global Fund invests world money to save lives. That means that this is internationally donated funding that is meant to be there for people in need and to save lives. And if we are not able to do that through the existing mechanisms, we need to make changes," he said.
Liden says full implementation of the health programs in Zambia will resume at the end of July or in August now that the U.N. Development Program is in charge of the money.
He says at least $8 million from the grants has gone missing. He says the fund is demanding the Zambian government reimburse that and any other money that may have been misappropriated.