This is the season when Central Coordinating Mechanisms in many countries are busy writing proposals for Round 7 of the Global Fund for AIDS, TB and Malaria. Many of the most endemic countries in Africa experienced failure in their Round 6 Malaria proposals. The Roll Back Malaria Partnership’s Harmonization Working Group has done commendable work to provide comprehensive technical assistance through two recent workshops to assist certain African countries to develop stronger proposals. The fear is that these new and improved proposals may face the same fate as last year’s group if more attention is not paid to the bottlenecks that have prevented achieving performance indicators in previously awarded malaria grants.
Much of technical assistance to date to GF grants has taken the form of proposal drafting assistance. Although CCMS are free to include in their proposals provision of technical assistance, few do. Until recently grants reached the Phase II renewal process with troublesome implementation bottlenecks ranging from poor procurement systems to inadequate monitoring and evaluation. It was estimated that nearly 40 countries were facing these implementation bottlenecks in 2006. Recently the Global Fund has inaugurated an Early Alert and Response System to identify these problems. The question is who will help provide TA for projects that are already in progress? Without addressing the existing bottlenecks, not only will current grants be lost, but new proposals will reviewed with a strike against them.
During the past year the US Government recognized the inhibiting effect these bottlenecks were having for both Phase II renewal and the success of new proposals. At present the US provides over one-quarter of all funds to the Global Fund, and does not want to see that investment lost when timely technical assistance could turn a project around. The challenge has been getting CCMs to request the technical assistance, but where they have, as was the case of the Nigeria Malaria Grant, it has helped. More countries are encouraged to take advantage of existing technical assistance channels as well as to write into their new proposals funds for getting technical assistance as they implement their programs.