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Global Fund decision will hurt the poor

By | February 14th 2010

That Aids is a serious issue is not in doubt. That people living with HIV deserve support and compassion is not in doubt either. Given the enormity and challenges resulting from the infection rates, even though these are apparently dropping due to behaviour change, for instance, the news that Kenya has lost Sh23 billion from the Global Fund is sad because we are all in one way or another affected by HIV/Aids.

The news could not have come at a worse time. More than 600,000 Kenyans rely on antiretroviral drugs (ARVs).

The drugs have given many people around the world hope and helped some regain their health after years of agony. Thus, it is a massive tragedy that such people, many of them poor, will suffer because of the rapacious desire of a few to steal and eat even from the bowls of those who can hardly afford the very bare minimum. Moreover, the fact that the country’s medical care is on its knees means Kenya is a sick country, needing urgent action to remove the malignant tumour that is corruption, and don’t-care-attitude and anarchical attitudes that pervade public service.

Empty rhetoric

That corruption is a cancer that threatens to devour our society has been too commonplace that it has almost ceased to be of interest any more. Notwithstanding this fact, corruption continues to grow, spread and entrench itself even more. Amidst empty rhetoric and hullabaloo from leaders promising action against corruption, it is the ordinary poor Kenyans, the wretched of the earth, who suffer most. The idea that someone can steal from, or even pay themselves millions from a kitty meant to provide basic medical care, is hugely immoral and undoubtedly criminal.

What is tragic about the whole saga, on top of losing the funds, is that previous funds were embezzled. Nonetheless, the commissions and omissions of some of our officials are sickening and deleterious to efforts to improve and safeguard the health of this nation. These may, in fact, have informed the decision of Global Fund to quash the appeal for the Sh23 billion to fight HIV/Aids and malaria. Officially, the appeal failed because of major weaknesses such as inadequate or inability to address issues of fund management and underperformance. In the language of the laity, corruption and mismanagement.

The cancer of corruption, and the incapacity of our leaders to deal more seriously with it, have proven costly to the country and the people. In effect, the seriousness of the issue, coupled with state inability to clearly provide mechanisms for safeguarding the funding, and ensuring it is used for intended purposes, means a lot has to be done to help those who suffer adverse effects of lack of funds for ARVs.

Different channels

Since it is the ordinary poor people who bear the brunt of such action, the Global Fund should reconsider its decisions, albeit with caveats. The country can still get the funding through different channels. Civil society, and especially community-based organisations, can be given the resources to distribute to those infected. This means the Government and some of its gluttonous officials should never be allowed near the cash. That would ensure the suffering get the much-needed assistance they need, particularly because HIV/Aids affects, for instance, millions of children. And these children cannot be abandoned and ‘punished’ because of the actions of a few individuals whose moral sense is seriously demented.

As this happens, however, we have to ask that people who have contributed to this serious situation reconsider their positions, and that the authorities take serious remedial action to stop this viral spread of corruption malaise.

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