Category Archives: Funding

Investing in Malaria at the Country Level: removing the financial burden on the poor

wmdlogoWorld Malaria Day 2015 is continuing a 3-year theme of promoting continued financial resource commitment to control and eliminate the disease. Investing in malaria can take many forms, the most obvious of which is the large donor agency grants from the Global Fund (GFATM), the US President’s Malaria Initiative (PMI), DfID, and the World Bank Malaria Booster Program, a name a few. International and local businesses and corporations also provide a share usually through their corporate social responsibility and employee health projects.

Cost recovery systems are not uncommon

Cost recovery systems are not uncommon

The global financial crisis that began in 2008 lingers in many corners of the world, and has caused thoughtful concern since then about how global disease control efforts can be sustained. In relation to malaria, this concern must take account of the fact that when interventions (ITNs, ACTs, RDTs, IPT) are scaled up and sustained, incidence will drop and the nature of programming and financial commitments will change. A greater emphasis on surveillance, identification of hotspots, response to epidemics, and import of cases from neighboring countries will take the foreground. All this will still require financial support, but where will it come from?

Many of the frontline malaria elimination countries in Africa do not receive external financial support but rely on their own national treasury. As incidence in other endemic countries drops, will the same be expected of them? It is important therefore to look at the current pattern on national commitment to funding malaria control and eventual elimination, including whether countries are devoting 15% of their annual budgets to health. Unfortunately in many countries household out-of-pocket expenditures for malaria services form the bulk of national funding for the disease, a major burden in terms of health equity.

medicine shops are a common place for out-of-pocket malaria  expenditures

medicine shops are a common place for out-of-pocket malaria expenditures

Cost recovery schemes have been tried in Burkina Faso. Rwanda has instituted community insurance programs. Yet these efforts still put a major financial burden on the poor. Ironically, while the poor pay more, the rich, both individuals, and corporations (national and multi-national) in malaria endemic countries conduct illicit financial transfers out of the country or evade local taxes.

Ultimately the challenges of political accountability for results and financial management within countries to citizens, domestic civil society and other non-state actors must be resolved if governments are going to take on a growing role for eliminating the malaria burden within their borders. Monetary investments alone cannot eliminate malaria. Political will must also be invested to close financial gaps, mobilize resources from various sectors and create a true partnership to end malaria.

(A longer version of this article will appear in the March 2015 issue of Africa Health.)

Malaria Care: Can We Achieve Universal Coverage?

uhc-day-badgeIn New York on 12 December 2014, a new global coalition of more than 500 leading health and development organizations worldwide was launched to advocate for universal coverage (UC) and urged “governments to accelerate reforms that ensure everyone, everywhere, can access quality health services without being forced into poverty.” This marked Universal Health Coverage Day which fell on the “two-year anniversary of a United Nations resolution … which endorsed universal health coverage as a pillar of sustainable development and global security.”

According to WHO delivery of UC involves four components:

  1. A strong, efficient, well-run health system
  2. Affordable care
  3. Accessible care
  4. A health workforce with sufficient capacity to meet patient needs

To this list we might add a functioning and timely procurement and supply management system, and not trust people to read between the lines on component #1 to consider this need.

DSCN2885aWhile much attention in malaria control is appropriately on prevention through various vector control measures, we cannot forget the importance of prompt and appropriate case management, especially as cases decline (according to the new 2014 World Malaria Report) and case detection assumes greater importance.

In 2000 Roll Back Malaria sponsored the Abuja Summit where targets were set for malaria intervention coverage. The goals were established at 80% for insecticide-treated nets (ITNs), intermittent preventive treatment and prompt and appropriate malaria treatment. In 2009, the United Nations declared a goal of universal coverage for ITNs. The potential for UC in malaria case management remained vague, but the new international push for US can certainly include malaria. It would not be coming too late because as we can see from the chart, many endemic countries are far from adequate malaria treatment coverage, let alone UC.

Slide1Frequent surveys help us track progress toward RBM goals and UC – Demographic and Health Survey, Malaria Information Survey, Multi Indicator Cluster Survey. Their helpfulness depends on the questions asked. The 2013 MIS from Rwanda gets closest to finding out what is really happening (Chart 2). We might infer a sequence of events that while not everyone seeks care for their febrile child, those who do are screened by the health worker (including volunteer community health workers); those suspected of malaria are tested (microscopy in clinics, RDTs in communities); and only those found positive are given ACTs.

Slide2Equity is a major concern for advocates of UC. Health insurance is one method to address this. In Ghana around 60% of people have taken part in the National Health Insurance Scheme, but only around 5% in Nigeria where 60% of health expenditure comes from out-of-pocket purchases. Rwanda has a system of mutuelles – community insurance schemes. Insurance does not meet the full need for malaria case management, and thus efforts to expand outlets for affordable quality malaria medicines through the Affordable Medicines Facility malaria (AMFm) was piloted in several countries.

A combination of approaches is needed to achieve UC in malaria case management. Public and private sources are requires. Low cost, subsidized and free care must to be part of the mix. Over half a million people, mostly children, are still dying from malaria annually. Solving the UC challenge for malaria is crucial.

Is donor assistance a right? … wrong

In response to donor criticism of human rights issues in one malaria endemic country and because of subsequent possible links with future donor cooperation, a prominent government official of that country was quoted as saying, “We don’t like to blackmail others. It’s very dishonest, very irresponsible and unfriendly of persons to attach behavior of another community to their sharing resources.”  (Reuters) This complaint ironically comes from a country that is on record as having squandered Global Fund resources.

Are donors under obligation to ‘share’ their resources with anyone regardless of their ‘behavior’, not just in the field of human rights, but also financial accountability? No country is forced to share its resources, and while all could do more, remarks like those above from recipients add fuel to the fire of those who would be happy to curtail foreign aid all together.

Burkina Faso contributes to malaria drug supplies

Burkina Faso contributes to malaria drug supplies

It is unfortunate that many countries are highly dependent on donors to solve problems like HIV, malaria TB, NTDs and NCDs for the foreseeable future. But a solution to the perceived manipulation by donors would of course be a greater commitment of domestic resources to solve these problems.

One country that is seeking a good balance is Burkina Faso. While the country does receive major support from the Global Fund and the US President’s Malaria Initiative for its fight against malaria, Burkina Faso is stepping up to play its own part.  Government has in recent years steadily increased its financial support to buy malaria commodities from $2 million to over $4 million annually in the past few years.

Relative to donor amounts this contribution may seem small, but the point is the willingness of the government to step up and help its own people. These additional government funds have played a crucial role in filling medicine and commodity gaps that naturally occur when donor supply schedules do not match needs at a given time.

The fight against malaria will be won by having more action oriented governments like Burkina Faso and fewer complainers and embezzlers.

Eliminate Malaria, Not Malaria Funding

As countries begin to see the benefits of sustained malaria intervention, they worry that they may be punished by donor agencies for their success. For example, The Tanzania Daily News reports that, “HEALTH officials in Zanzibar have said that the Islands are likely to experience problems in the fight against Malaria should major donors, including Global Fund and the United States government pull out from financing the project.”

dscn9801a.jpgZanzibar is nearing pre-elimintion malaria transmission levels but is dependent on donor funding to maintain progress. The Daily News specifies that, “The US through its President’s Malaria Initiatives (PMI) remains the leading financier with 56 per cent of the funds received for the malaria campaign. Global Fund is 40 per cent, WHO and UNICEF two per cent; other donors 1.97 per cent; and Zanzibar government is 0.03 per cent.”

Health officials did clarify the actual situation by saying that, “We are happy that PMI has not shown any indication to pull out, but we must prepare ourselves and look for alternative financiers should the US stop supporting Malaria programme.” A look at the latest grant progress report for Zanzibar at the Global Fund website had only a report from August 2012 for Round 8 Malaria Grant that was made near the end of Phase 1 of the grant.

It is not clear if Phase 2 of the Global Fund grant has been or will be funded, but we know that the GFATM has been going through financial difficulties and changes.  This is likely why Zanzibar health managers are worried. The last grant rating was files back in 2011 and gave the program a ‘B2’ rating which is cause for caution and possibly hints at reasons why Phase 2 is in limbo.

PMI reports that donor support and Zanzibari leadership, “has resulted in a dramatic decrease in malaria prevalence in Zanzibar. However, persistence of malaria transmission in surrounding areas (Tanzania mainland and Kenya) leaves the island vulnerable to sudden outbreaks and the re-establishment of ongoing, perennial malaria transmission.” Even though Zanzibar is an island, it is still vulnerable, and any withdrawal of support would negate and reverse gains made. For example, PMI explains that Zanzibar is a place where “Malaria Early Epidemic Detection System (MEEDS) … an innovative mHealth system” is being tested.

Pre-elimination not only requires sustaining existing interventions, but also implementing new ones like MEEDS in order to maintain necessary surveillance that will ultimately document whether malaria elimination has succeeded. As PMI notes, “MEEDS and Coconut Surveillance are helping Zanzibar to identify and treat many otherwise undiagnosed malaria cases, identifying hot spots and transmission patterns, and responding rapidly to new outbreaks. These mHealth applications are helping Zanzibar to sustain the remarkable gains it has made against this dangerous and debilitating disease.”

Also, “maintaining and continuing to reduce malaria transmission will require ongoing education for both health care providers and residents to reinforce the importance of using preventive measures,” as the public and health workers perceive the drop in prevalence according to Bauch and colleagues. Malaria prevalence in Zanzibar has been less that 1% for over 6 years, and we need to continue to reduce it.

Interventions in the final phases of malaria elimination may not be as dramatic or visible as distributing millions of insecticide treated bednets, but they are just as essential.  We need to maintain support in all endemic countries until we see malaria elimination through to its conclusion. Otherwise years of intervention will be wasted, and new lives will be lost.

Country Ownership and Global Fund Grants

The latest edition of Global Fund Observer (#218) from AIDSPAN raised a lingering question about the Funds founding principles – what is country ownership and how is it practiced? The thoughts range from the more altruistic – let the country decide what it needs to do and we’ll give the money – to the more crude, though not stated as such – give the country enough rope (money) to hang itself.

Another founding principle involved the Global Fund seeing itself as only a financial mechanism, not a technical one like the World Health Organization or UNICEF.  AIDSPAN demonstrates how over time, while still not providing direct technical assistance, decisions from the Technical Review Panel and the Global Fund Board, among others, can be seen clearly as offering a technical guidance that must be heeded if funds are to flow.

In short AIDSPAN has shown how the Global Fund itself has taken a more directive role, though often based on programmatic evidence and advocacy from those who have a stake or experience. We also need to look at th other side of the coin – within the country, who owns the Global Fund process?

A major overhaul of Country Coordinating Mechanisms (CCMs) some years ago was stimulated by the realization that government agencies are not the sole representatives of their countries and peoples.  While civil society and non-governmental organizations were expected to play a role in CCMs, they were often ignored and rarely had major roles in deciding on and implementing Global Fund sponsored programs in their countries.  Sometimes the advocacy mentioned by AIDSPAN was prompted by CSOs and NGOs not being heard within their own countries.

AIDSPAN mentions changes that the Global Fund has strongly suggested such as having dual track principle recipients (PRs) representing government and the non-governmental sectors.  While this may have represented a somewhat heavy hand from Geneva, the results sometimes reflected the status quo ante and NGO PRs were often relegated to less well funded aspects of programming such as behavior and social change.

Global Fund recipient countries represent a wide diversity of political systems in various stages of evolution.  It would be naive to expect that country ownership really embodies democratic participation of all stakeholders, public, private and NGO, in decision making and implementing on an equal footing – and no one really believes that is fully possible in at present.  Still it is a long term goal and a principle that should guide funding decisions as much as the quality of the technical content of proposed activities.

alma-q1_2013_-_english_scorecard_sm.jpg

In the meantime we can look for additional ways and means to hold countries accountable for their health and social programming decisions. A good example is peer influence from the African Leaders Malaria Alliance (ALMA) which regularly publishes a scorecard of progress toward key health indicators. This freely available score card shows for example, in the first quarter on 2013 only six countries meeting the criteria of good financial management set by the World Bank. In the countdown to 2015, only eight countries are on track in terms of breastfeeding coverage.

As AIDSPAN observes, “But one has to acknowledge that, in the process, the concept of ‘country ownership’ is certainly evolving. Perhaps it will evolve further under the new funding model.” We hope the concept evolves along lines of full and equal partnership among all stakeholders within a country – that all sectors and peoples within a country will truly ‘own’ and thus influence the decision and actions around programs supported through the Global Fund.

Appreciating Many Years of Malaria Partnerships and Investment

wmd2013logo-sm.jpgWhile today it technically the sixth World Malaria Day, one should actually trace the origins back 13 years to the first Africa Malaria Day (AMD) in 2001, held to encourage progress based on the Africa malaria Summit in Abuja just one year before.  And since the Abuja summit and its resulting declaration were backed by the Roll Back Malaria Partnership, which formed in 1998, one could say the world has 15 years to considering in judging progress in and plans for partner investments in ridding the world of malaria.

In 2001 organizers of Malaria Day events were encouraged to feature a ‘new’ medicine that WHO said could save 100,000 child healths annually in Africa. artimisinin-based combination therapy (ACT) drugs are now the front line treatment in most all endemic countries, and deaths have declined somewhat on the order of 400,000. At that time there was only one major manufacturer of ACTs. Investments by pharmaceutical companies in generic ACTs now means that there are at least nine companies that produce prequalified ACTs. What is needed is more indigenous African pharmaceutical companies approved to invest in ACT production.

logo_animated.gifThe first AMD stressed the risk of malaria to pregnant women and recommended widespread use of Intermittent Preventive Treatment in pregnancy (IPTp).  This recommendation has been adopted in countries with stable falciparum malaria transmission, but has lagged in terms of implementation, and coverage still lags below the 80% target set at the 2000 Abuja Summit.  There are missed opportunities to provide IPTp at antenatal clinics due to stock-outs, provider attitudes, and client beliefs. Weak health information systems mean that even when services are provided, reporting may not accurately reflect true coverage of IPTp.

In the meantime resistance is growing to sulphadoxine-pyrimethamine (SP), the drug used for IPTp in part due to the inability or unwillingness of country drug authorities to curb its inappropriate use for case management.  WHO now recommends more that the original two IPTp doses and suggests that pregnant women get SP at each ANC visit after quickening.  In the meantime research is underway to find substitutes for SP.

The first AMD addressed the role of insecticide treated nets (ITNs) in helping halve the world’s malaria burden by 2010.  Major progress came in 2008 when the whole United Nations community and of course companies invested in net production got behind universal coverage. In addition the advent of the long lasting insecticide-treated net with insecticide infused in the fabric from point of production pointed the way to success.

These three core interventions – ACTs, IPTp and ITNs – have been strengthened with better diagnostics and a variety of other vector control measures, Hopes for a vaccine still remain a dream, though an achievable one.  While we have high expectations for eradication, we can see that some of the health systems challenges that thwarted the first malaria eradication effort are still with us including weak procurement and supply management, inadequate human resources and gaps in health information systems.

The foregoing implies that we need at least two forms of future investment in malaria. First is investment by governments in strengthening the health system that deliver malaria services. The second investment is in continued biomedical research in order to fend off resistance by mosquitoes and parasites and of course social research to address issues of behavior, adoption of innovations and program management practices. Let’s hope that when World Malaria Day 2014 rolls around, we can measure these increases investments.

Nigerian Lawmakers Skeptical at Time When More National Malaria Support Needed

mip-nigeria-sm.jpgAs global financial support for malaria and other disease control efforts has faltered, there is a greater need for national malaria programs to pick up the slack. A look at Nigeria’s national health accounts does show that ‘foreign’ aid does play a relatively small role in health financing and expenditure in this oil-rich country, but ironically it is the common citizen who picks up the bulk of health financing through out-of-pocket expenditures.

The question of local initiative in the move toward elimination of malaria received a severe blow when the Nigerian Senate Committee on Health questioned the need for continued purchases of long lasting insecticide-treated nets (LLINS). The Guardian newspaper reported that the, “Chairman of the committee, Dr. Ifeanyi Okowa, wondered why Nigeria would still continue to cling to the strategy, which he said was not working, when country like Senegal that has manufacturing plants for LLINs was using other effective means to tackle malaria.”

The Senator’s views contrast with those of national experts and the WHO: “While the Minister of State for Health, Dr.Muhammad Ali Pate, said in January that the ministry proposed N1.8 billion for the procurement of LLINs for additional three states, a World Health Organisation (WHO)’s report shows that Nigeria would need one billion dollars (N158 billion) to stave off backsliding and resurgences of malaria in 2013 and 2014.”

It would seem that the Senator was reacting to perceived pressure from the international community to maintain a malaria control strategy that he thought was less effective than indoor residual spraying (IRS).  Of course one of the biggest challenges in disease control advocacy efforts is to educate policy makers. The Director-General of the Nigerian Institute for Medical Research, Prof. Innocent Ujah, tried to do this. He pointed out cultural factors that inhibit net use – and in fact lack of serious community follow-up efforts after massive net distribution over the past 2-3 years, can be traced as one reason why LLINs may have been wasted.

The Senator did not realize that malaria control leading toward elimination needs a multifaceted strategy. IRS can be part, but has its own limitations of which one is expense.  In highly endemic, stable and year-round transmission environments like Nigeria, spraying would be needed twice a year.  We forget that Nigeria has already once tried IRS a few decades ago and abandoned the effort in part due to the huge logistical challenges required.

Nigeria has tried selling LLINs/ITNs through the private sector, but coverage was low since not all Nigerians could or would buy them despite paying disproportionately out-of-pocket for treatment. If the government refuses to fund massive LLIN distribution, then we can expect the burden to fall on the common people who may die from malaria before they purchase a more costly net on the commercial market.

Death by Sequestration

Across the board cuts in US funding for almost everything government does (except the salaries of members of Congress!), will have effects on people’s lives. Damage from sequestration is reported daily. Even civil rights are threatened as reported in the Washington Post in a story that highlights the plight of poor people who must remain jailed because funds for public defenders have been cut and there are not enough lawyers to ensure a speedy trial.

amfAR, The Foundation for AIDS Research, has been tracking the potential effects of the sequester on global health programs of the US Government. amfAR has made estimates based Congress’ action in January 2013, and reported that, “The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) has calculated that, as of March 1, 2013, funding for non-defense discretionary programs must be cut across the board by 5.0 percent.1  As we found in our earlier calculations, applying sequestration cuts to US government global health programming will have minimal impact on deficit reduction, but will be devastating to the lives of many thousands of people globally.”

sequestration-infographic_031113-malaria-part-sm.pngHere are the specifics on malaria programs:

  • 1.16 million fewer insecticide-treated mosquito nets will be procured …
  • leading to over 3,000 deaths due to malaria
  • 1.9 million fewer people will receive treatment

InterAction and Global Communities have produced an informational graphic that summarizes the impact on disease control, nutrition and education (see malaria section to right). This comes as part of a general leveling and possible downturn in malaria funding over the past few years. It will be hard to sustain the scale-up in malaria interventions that has been achieved since the United Nations called for universal coverage in 2009.

Most of the decision makers who vote on funds to curb global disease scourges will not likely ever see a case of malaria, much less experience one.  Hopefully this does not mean that they will be immune to advocacy to prevent needless deaths from malaria and other causes of maternal and child mortality.

Towards a Malaria-Free Kenya

Elizabeth Kubo has written this guest blog posting that originally appeared in SBFPHC Policy and Advocacy.

Malaria is a leading cause of morbidity and mortality in many developing countries, where children and pregnant women are the most vulnerable groups. In Kenya, the disease is responsible for 34,000 under five child deaths annually. About 70% of Kenya’s total population is at risk for malaria.

itn-use.jpgWith funding predominantly from international donors and development partners, the country has adopted and implemented multiple malaria control strategies, resulting in a remarkable decline in the national all-cause under 5 mortality. Despite the gains, a slight downward trend was noted in the proportion of households with at least one insecticide treated net (ITN), the proportion of children under five years old who slept under an ITN, and the proportion of pregnant women who slept under an ITN between 2008 and 2010.

The Global Fund for AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, the Department for International Development (DfID), and the US President’s Malaria Initiative have confirmed funding for the 2013 implementation period, but this falls short of the expected need. Despite repeatedly reiterating its commitment to the fight against malaria, the Kenyan government has previously played a minor role in financing the control efforts.

There is an urgent need to intensify scale-up of targeted interventions in order to reverse the downward trend and attain universal targets. It is possible to close the funding gap through greater in-country resource mobilization. Government commitment to malaria control needs to be reflected in ministry of health budgetary allocations. Civil society organizations also have a role to play. It is possible to have a malaria free Kenya.

Fakes and Fraud: another threat to malaria funds

While some countries are being praised this week for their progress in controlling malaria, Uganda seems to be suffering from a double knock out punch when it comes to malaria financing. Challenges have appeared in both the private and public sectors.

In the most recent scorecard from the African Leaders Malaria Alliance (ALMA) scored poorly in terms of long lasting insecticide treated net distribution and low on the measure of government financial support for the health sector.

herbshop2a-sm.jpgThe private sector challenge has come in the form of fake medicines in local shops. This comes in the form of a threat to individuals and families who spend their hard earned cash, that is out-of-pocket expenditure (OOP) of malaria medicines that at best inappropriate and at worse are devoid of active ingredients, increasing the likelihood that the sick person will develop severe disease and maybe die.

Specifically the Washington Post reported that an indigenous medical practitioner “in Kampala, says he has seen a big increase in business as patients turned off by the prospect of dangerous fake drugs seek relief from illness.” The article explains that although “Officials and international aid agencies have long encouraged the sick to place their trust in modern medicine. But fake pharmaceuticals believed to have come from Asia have flooded” African Markets including Uganda.

The irony is that Uganda is part of the testing of the Affordable Medicines Facility malaria (AMFm) project that was supposed to drive out fake and inappropriate medicines by making low cost (subsidized) quality antimalarials available in both public and private sectors. While Uganda witnessed an increase in market share of the green-leaf branded quality assured artemisinin-based combination therapy drugs, it did not achieve other benchmarks such as supportive behavior change communication and low cost targets (mark-up averaged 133% – highest among the 8 pilots).

The second threat comes from extensive embezzlement by national malaria program staff.  Earlier this month Uganda was in the news for returning 4 million Euro of misappropriated funds to the Irish Government.

Then an ongoing investigation into embezzlement came to light a few days ago. The Observer Newspaper as shared on AllAfrica.com reported that …

“An investigation into the financial practices of officials running the ministry of Health’s Malaria Control programme (MCP) shows they forged almost everything from workshops, car hires, allowances and fuel expenses. The investigation has now shifted its focus to the extent of the forgery and theft by officials implicated in the loss of nearly Shs 78bn (US $29m). The shift in the focus of the inquiry follows a review of stacks of documents provided by three suspects involved in the MCP scandal. Police confirm that the documents show the extent of the forgery by some officials involved in the anti-malaria campaign.”

In these times when it is difficult to increase health development spending for malaria both domestically and from international donors, all efforts are needed to ensure that waste and fraud are eliminated.