Global Fund Protects Us All
A pediatric resident with tuberculosis treating 150 patients at Children’s Memorial Hospital in Chicago.
A fourteen-year-old Zambian girl caring for three siblings because her parents died of AIDS.
A mother in India spreading a treated bed net over her children to protect them from malaria.
What do these scenes have in common? They are all reminders that diseases of poverty – AIDS, TB and malaria – are alive and well, even in our local communities.
The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB and Malaria is one of the world’s most effective tools for fighting these deadly diseases. It provides huge percentages of the international funding to combat them: 25% for AIDS, 66% for TB, and 75% for malaria. It distributes drug treatments and bed nets as well as providing essential support services. It shelters women disowned by husbands who infect them with AIDS. It teaches villagers to detect and treat malaria. It even protects Illinois residents by working to stop the spread of global TB.
Despite the Global Fund’s proven track record, by 2010 it is projected to be $5 billion short of its budget to continue future programs. While an increasing number of poor nations are seeing success and submitting high-quality grant proposals, donor nations – including the U.S. – are not meeting pledged funding levels. Without full funding this year and next, life-saving programs will be abruptly put on hold. Millions of lives will be at risk.
In the face of economic crisis, the temptation for developed nations to reduce support for the Global Fund is understandable, but inexcusable. They are penny-wise and pound-foolish. By not viewing their contributions as smart investments, donor nations ignore public health at their peril. If the Global Fund’s shortfall is allowed to continue, developed nations will only postpone the inevitable need to send even more aid to control the resurgence of disease. They will stifle global economic development as poor countries struggle with unhealthy workforces. Worse, the heaviest price will be paid if militaries must engage in more conflicts to stabilize areas where poverty has driven people to desperate acts of violence.
Senator Richard Durbin (D-IL), Representative Mark Kirk (R-10th), and Representative Jesse Jackson Jr. (D-2nd) have influence over global health funding as members of Foreign Operations subcommittees. They have been instrumental in increasing U.S. AIDS, TB and malaria contributions to the highest levels in history. The world is counting on their leadership once again.
Congress and the Obama administration have a chance in the coming supplemental appropriations bill to increase 2009 funding for the Global Fund by $1 billion. This increase would meet urgent needs, set the Global Fund on an upward trajectory and improve the U.S. image by proving we’re committed to multilateral, results-driven global health funding. Additionally, the Obama administration and Congress should work together to provide the U.S. fair share to the Global Fund for 2010: $2.7 billion.
From a financial perspective, the $1 billion for 2009 is less than one-third of the Merrill Lynch Christmas bonuses currently under investigation. Unlike irresponsible financial institutions and poorly-led auto companies coming to the taxpayer with their hands out, the Global Fund has succeeded beyond expectations in its mission to bring urgently-needed health services to the poor. It should be rewarded – not punished – for that success.
From a human perspective, a thriving Global Fund will mean children like 14-year-old orphan Catherine Phiri will be less likely to die from AIDS which claimed her parents. Mothers like Seema Paati will sleep under bed nets with their children without fear of contracting malaria. You and I will know our country used our tax dollars to protect us and honor our promise to the poorest people of the world.