Zim violates Global Fund regulations

Source: Zim violates Global Fund regulations –Newsday Zimbabwe

The Global Fund is a worldwide movement to fight HIV, TB and malaria to ensure a healthier, safer, more equitable future for all.

GOVERNMENT has been accused of ignoring an explosive report against a health worker who sexually abused a beneficiary of the Global Fund, putting future funding under the programme in doubt.

Zimbabwe is one of three countries in Africa, including South Africa and Uganda, that violated the Global Fund’s rules on the handling of sexual offences linked to its programme.

Health and Child Care ministry spokesperson Donald Mujiri yesterday said government would look at the report and respond to the allegations.

“We will look at the report and comment on the allegations,” he said, but did not make further comments.

Reports from the fund’s Office of the Inspector-General (OIG), published on May 19 this year, uncovered cases of sexual exploitation and abuse within Global Fund-supported programmes in the three countries.

The reports cited the exploitation of vulnerable individuals through coercive practices.

“The investigations conducted in South Africa, Uganda and Zimbabwe confirmed distressing instances of sexual exploitation and abuse perpetrated by individuals in positions of power against vulnerable beneficiaries.

“In Zimbabwe, a staff member at a government hospital exploited a vulnerable patient by taking advantage of her desperate circumstances.

“The victim-survivor reported that the staff member propositioned her while carrying out his duties at the hospital,” the report said.

The investigations also revealed a significant delay in reporting the allegations to the Global Fund and a lack of proper response and support for the victims.

According to the report, the OIG also learned that beneficiaries, who relied on their families for food and supplies during their hospital stay, were sometimes exploited by staff members who offered them food in exchange for sex.

“These cases expose systemic flaws and a decline in moral standards within health programmes,” part of the report read.

The three investigations revealed a troubling pattern of failure to promptly report allegations to the Global Fund, violating the fund’s code of conduct for recipients.

“Zimbabwe also didn’t report the issue; the hospital administrators did not inform the Ministry of Health and Child Care, a sub-recipient of the HIV grant, or the principal recipient, the United Nations Development Programme,” the report further read.

The Global Fund is a worldwide movement to fight HIV, TB and malaria to ensure a healthier, safer, more equitable future for all.

It has so far raised and invested US$4 billion a year to fight the deadliest infectious diseases, challenge the injustices that fuel them and strengthen health systems in more than 100 countries.

The report said the failures by Zimbabwe, Uganda and South Africa did not only violate the Global Fund’s code of conduct, but also undermined the credibility and effectiveness of the programmes themselves.

“In Zimbabwe, the victim was left to navigate legal procedures alone, despite her bravery in coming forward. This lack of support demonstrated neglect and insensitivity towards the victim’s wellbeing and rights.

“The OIG reports emphasise the urgent need to prioritise victim assistance, support, and justice in these programmes,” the report said.

Zimbabwe has attracted controversy in many programmes that could jeopardise its chances of receiving funding from international organisations to shore up its under-funded health sector.

However, Global Fund said Zimbabwe had made significant progress in the fight against the three diseases, despite a prolonged economic crisis that has led to a deterioration of health infrastructure, loss of experienced health staff and a decline in the quality of health services.

“Zimbabwe ranks among the top 18 countries achieving an incidence-to-prevalence ratio of 3%. However, some challenges remain.

“There are HIV data anomalies, with significantly higher cases detected annually than estimates, and efforts are required to understand the underlying root causes and inform an appropriate programmatic response.

“Further improvements are needed in outreach among hard-to-reach populations, and in putting all identified patients on treatment.”

The programme is currently partially effective in patient tracking and counselling, key population coverage, early infant diagnosis, and overall viral load suppression; further improvements will be needed to reach the ambitious programme objectives.