Saturday, June 6, 2009

African HIV/AIDS Program Drastically Affected by Global Financial Crisis

The global financial crisis has forced most African countries to slash their HIV/AIDS program budgets, according to a recent report by Black Star News.

Botswana, South Africa, Zambia, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Zimbabwe are some of the countries hardest hit by the economic downturn. These countries' export revenues have dropped, severely affecting revenue flow for government expenditure on critical HIV/AIDS programs.

Program cuts have already been announced throughout the region. Tanzania introduced a 25% cut to its annual HIV/AIDS budget, and the Botswana government declared that it will not include new patients in its free antiretroviral treatment program from 2016 onwards.

Major international donor organizations are also being hit by the financial crisis. The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria announced a $4 billion dollar budget shortfall for essential services in 2010. In addition, the group faces a $10.7 billion funding gap for the regional implementation of their Global Plan to Stop TB.

Health advocates are pressing African governments and international aid organizations to stick by their commitments to improve HIV/AIDS care, arguing that the right to heath treatment is non-negotiable.

“In the last few months, we have seen trillions of dollars spent on financial bailouts to stimulate economic recovery,” said Nonkosi Khumalo, a women's health program coordinator at the South African Treatment Action Campaign, speaking at a recent meeting of HIV/AIDS coalitions in Cape Town. “A tiny portion of this sum could have bought quality, sustainable healthcare for millions of people.”

According to the 2009 World Bank report, "Averting a Human Crisis During the Global Downturn", countries in Eastern and Southern Africa are the most vulnerable. Researchers estimate the negative impact of this crisis will affect 70% of people on ARV treatment in Africa within the next 12 months. Apart from countries such as Botswana and South Africa, most countries have limited fiscal space they can use to cushion the impact of a decline in international aid, the World Bank says.

The complete article "Global Financial Woes Roil AIDS Fight" by Sifelani Tsiko can be found here:

The World Bank has more information on the impacts of the Global Financial Crisis at:

Update, 23 June 2009:
World Bank Report Predicts Contracting Global Economy Will Hurt Poorest Countries

The World Bank released a report Monday, projecting "a 2.9 percent contraction in global GDP this year, as rich countries contract by 4.5 percent," the Wall Street Journal reports. "The crisis of the past two years is having dramatic effects on capital flows to developing countries, and the world appears to be entering an era of lower growth," World Bank Chief Economist Justin Lin said (Burns, Wall Street Journal, 6/22).

The report -- which was issued at a conference in Seoul, South Korea -- forecasts more dire predictions than those the World Bank made just months ago and contrasts with the views of "its sister organization, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) ... which is forecasting a global contraction of only 1.3 percent this year and growth of 2.4 percent in 2010," Bloomberg/Los Angeles Times reports. "[W]hile a global recovery may begin this year, impoverished economies will lag behind rich nations in benefiting," the newspaper writes. "The lender called for 'bold' actions to hasten a rebound and said the prospects for securing aid for the poorest countries were 'bleak'" (Bloomberg/Los Angeles Times, 6/22).

CNN reports, "Developing countries will be hit hard by falls in private investment ... seeing nearly $1 trillion less in foreign investment this year than they did two years ago" (CNN, 6/22). "The real challenge is going to be to manage going through this period of very slow growth, to keep government programs that are critical for longer term growth (infrastructure, health and education policies)," Andrew Burns, acting manager of the World Bank's Global Trends Team, told VOA News. Burns said that in response to the growing need, the World Bank "is stepping up lending to the region" -- with plans to lend about "$33 billion this year and next year" (DeCapua, VOA News, 6/22).

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