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Fears US may cut Sh3.5b malaria funding to Kenya

Health & Science
 A Patient in a district hospital. (Photo: Courtesy)

Kenya could lose more than Sh3.5 billion for malaria control if US President Donald Trump makes good his threat to cut foreign assistance.

The US State Department has requested Congress for $34 million for funding malaria activities in Kenya for this year through the US President’s Malaria Initiative (PMI).

The bulk of the money will be used for financing 1.7 million nets and indoor insecticide spraying to cover 1.4 million people around Lake Victoria.

Other areas the malaria money will cover this year include procurement of  15 million diagnostic kits and 5.5 million doses of treatments. The PMI is the single biggest funder for malaria in Kenya which on average kills about 46,000 people annually.

The State Department indicates Kenya’s 2017 malaria funding plan has already been approved by the US Global Malaria Coordinator.

“The final funding available to support the plan is pending final FY 2017 appropriation.”

In his farewell speech this week (January 18) US Global Malaria Coordinator, Rear Admiral (Ret) Tim Ziemer made a passionate appeal to the new government to support the PMI like former presidents Bush and Obama did.

“I have every reason to believe that the support for PMI will remain a priority for the new administration, the White House and the US Congress,” Admiral Ziemer said in a statement.

The admiral was stepping down after completing his six-year presidential appointment to pave way for the new administration to pick the next PMI coordinator.

The global health community is equally anxious over whether and with whom President Trump will replace Dr Deborah Birx, the US global Aids coordinator who also oversees the hugely funded Presidential Emergency Plan for Aids Relief (PEPFAR).

In a recent media interview Dr Birx indicated her willingness to continue in her position if given a chance.

Through PEPFAR, Kenya gets about Sh30 billion annually for HIV and Aids but the total aid package to Kenya was put at $2.5 billion (Sh255.25 billion) in 2015.

However, it has been reported that Trump advisers are suggesting changes in foreign aid. Last Saturday, the Global Fund Observer, a publication of the Nairobi-based Aidspan that tracks the activities of Global Fund strongly expressed fears that the new US presidency could reduce HIV funding to Africa.

The Observer had serious reservations over US Vice President, Mike Pence who when in Congress as Republican Representative of Indiana was seen to fight the rights of gays in America.

He had also been a strong supporter of programmers which promoted abstinence as the primary means of HIV prevention, a route largely neglected by current US funding.

So worried are global health aid brokers that on January 18, a group comprising influential researchers from the University of Oxford, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicines, UK and University of Michigan, US, published a 17-point score card to track Trump’s performance on global health indicators.

Published in the scientific journal The Lancet, the authors say so far President Trump’s statements and his nominations for key government posts suggest that his presidency could have profound implications on domestic and global health.

“Although appointments to USAid have yet to be confirmed, Trump has considered Newt Gingrich, who proposed abolishing USAid altogether,” say the authors. This position, the authors say raises questions about the future of US engagement in global health initiative.

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