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Why US cut funding for HIV in Kenya

Sunday December 8 2019

HIV funding

HIV funding: In 2017-18, Kenya received Sh57 billion, which was reduced to Sh50 billion last year, to the expected Sh37 billion this year. PHOTO | FILE | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

ANGELA OKETCH
By ANGELA OKETCH
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The United States has for the first time explained why it has cut health funding to the Kenyan government, saying that the move was not malicious but driven by programmes and data.

Kenya, according to figures seen by the Sunday Nation and reported by Dr Austin Demby, deputy director of the Office of Global Health, is one of the countries that benefited the most from the US President’s Emergency Plan for Aids Relief (Pepfar) resources.

Kenya has received about Sh700 billion from Pepfar since it was founded 15 years ago, and the country remains the programme’s largest beneficiary.

Pepfar, which funds most HIV activities in Kenya, has been cutting funding to Kenya since 2017.

In 2017-18, Kenya received Sh57 billion, which was reduced to Sh50 billion last year, to the expected Sh37 billion this year.

The US Global Aids coordinator also approved Pepfar’s 2019 Country Operational Plan for Kenya, which contains the budget cut, estimated at Sh13 billion.

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POOR USE

However, from the explanation given to the Sunday Nation by Dr Demby during a tour of the entity’s offices last month in Washington, DC, Kenya has been carrying forward a lot of unspent money when there are some desperate countries in need of the money.

He revealed that for the five years that the agency has been funding Kenya, the country spends $200 million less every year.

After the figures were reviewed, it was found that Kenya was sitting on a $1 billion (over Sh100 billion) that had not been spent in five years.

“You give them $500 million, they spend $300 million and next year you give them another $500 million and they spend the same amount, and five years later it’s an accumulation of a billion dollars,” Dr Demby told the Sunday Nation.

He adds: “When you look at other countries like Malawi and Botswana, where we are putting in a lot less, the number of patients in care is very similar to that in Kenya, hence begging the question why are we spending more money in Kenya for the same results we get in other countries getting less?”

COST CORRECTION

He said since more countries are coming on board and the programme is expanding, the fund started looking at countries that are not spending money as required.

“In a lot of cases, we were not removing money from Kenya but deducting the unspent amount from next year’s budget,” he said.

He revealed that it was time Kenya adopted cost correction. “This money does not belong to one country or the other. It is a global programme, so if you do not need it, we will move it to another country that desperately needs it,” he said

Kenya, Rwanda and Ethiopia were on a similar path and they lost a lot of money, he said.

BLOOD BANKS

The Sunday Nation has learnt that the cut in funding has had a negative effect in the country as hundreds of Kenyans working for NGOs funded by the US government that undertake HIV-related work had been laid off.

Blood banks are also currently running dry. The Kenya National Blood Transfusion Services (KNBTS) has for 15 years relied on Pepfar to fund its services.

Pepfar has been supporting blood collection, testing and policy issues in the country for 15 years.

The cut in funding has left the ministry in a dilemma on how to ensure the blood banks are well stocked.