Global Fund 45th Board Meeting Reports Continued Progress Despite COVID-19 Pandemic
12 May 2021
GENEVA – The Board of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria overwhelmingly praised the continued progress of the Global Fund in the past year despite the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic. The Board discussed how the Global Fund partnership can continue to support countries to respond to COVID-19 and prepare for future pandemics, while at the same time mitigating the impact on HIV, TB and malaria programs and strengthen systems for health in order to reach the target of ending HIV, TB and malaria as epidemics by 2030.
“Our mission to end HIV, TB and malaria as epidemics by 2030 is as relevant as it was 20 years ago. It is only the context and environment around us that has shifted beyond measure, and we have to adjust,” said Dr. Donald Kaberuka, Board Chair.
In his update to the Board, Peter Sands, Executive Director of the Global Fund, highlighted the key progress in the past year. In terms of grants signed and total funding approved, we are well ahead of where we were at the same point in the last cycle: As of end-April 2021, the Technical Review Panel has approved nearly US$11.7 billion of funding requests for grant-making out of a total country allocation of US$12.7 billion. Quality has remained extremely high, despite the challenges of remote working and the COVID-19 pandemic. The Technical Review Panel rated 89% of funding requests as “good” or “very good”, and highlighted increased attention to critical areas like human rights and gender.
Approximately US$1 billion of HIV, TB and malaria health product procurement has been placed through wambo.org and our Pooled Procurement Mechanism already this year – about 30% more than the same period last year. There has been a significant step-up in community, human rights and gender interventions; in grants signed as of end-2020, budgets for community systems strengthening investments and building resilient and sustainable systems for health grants had increased 145%; human rights investments in HIV grants increased by 66%. We also doubled the Secretariat resources focused on adolescent girls and young women.
In addition to the core work fighting HIV, TB and malaria, more than US$1 billion has been approved to support countries’ responses to COVID-19 since March 2020. The first Fast-track funding requests to the COVID-19 Response Mechanism in 2021, including US$75 million for emergency oxygen for India, were approved within days of being received. More are in the pipeline.
“This Board meeting helped to focus attention on key issues, including communities, rights and gender, diversity and inclusion, and next year’s Seventh Replenishment. The Board stressed the importance of continuing to roll out support through the COVID-19 Response Mechanism, continuity of programs and operations during the pandemic, and continued attention to key organizational controls and proactively managing risks,” said Roslyn Morauta, Board Vice-Chair.
A key point of discussion at the Board Meeting was the ongoing development of the new Global Fund Strategy, which will set the direction for the Global Fund post-2022. The Board is currently considering the role of the Global Fund in pandemic preparedness and response, in view of the impact COVID-19 has on the three diseases, the relevance of positioning the three diseases within the wider pandemic narrative (as three of the biggest unresolved pandemics), and the core strengths of the Global Fund’s model that can leveraged to build pandemic preparedness and responses.
“The Global Fund was created as a mechanism to respond to pandemics. We have learned a huge number of lessons about how to effectively respond to pandemics,” said Peter Sands, Executive Director of the Global Fund. “But COVID-19 has knocked us back across all three diseases. We need to think very hard, as we deliver on our mission to end HIV, TB and malaria, about how important it is to protect the communities we are focused on from the threats of other diseases that can completely disrupt our progress on HIV, TB and malaria.”
The Strategy Development process began in 2020; the first year focused on gathering input and evidence from every segment of the partnership, while this year we are developing the Strategy framework and narrative. The version of the Strategy framework coming out of this week’s Board meeting will go back to the Strategy Committee ahead of the Extraordinary Board Meeting in July, when the new framework will be finalized and then developed into a full Strategy that will go for Board approval in November.
In order to facilitate the implementation of critical activities in 2022, the Board also approved a small increase in the Global Fund’s operating expenses for the 2020-2022 allocation period, from US$900 million to US$930 million. The Global Fund’s operating expenses are just 5.4% of annual expenditures, one of the lowest levels in the global health sector.