$156M to Strengthen Healthcare Systems, Boost COVID-19 Responses

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President Dr Julius Maada Bio has launched a $156 million new Global Fund Grant to strengthen healthcare systems and the control of Malaria, tuberculosis, HIV/AIDS and the new Delta Variant of the Covid -19 pandemic in the country.

The Global Fund is a partnership designed to accelerate the end of AIDS, Tuberculosis, and malaria as epidemics. The Fund was created in 2002 to support programs run by local experts, including governments, civil societies, technical agencies, the private sector, and people affected by the diseases. Since 2004, the Global Fund has invested over $347.3 million in Sierra Leone.

Its Executive Director, Peter Sands, thanked President Bio for his leadership in the fight against COVID-19 and praised his commitment to being the co-funding partner in the fight against Malaria, HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis, and the current scourge of the Coronavirus. He added that the Ministry of Health and Sanitation and the Catholic Relief Services, CRS, were the two main principal recipients who would work alongside other sub-recipients to roll out the 2021-2024 programme of the Global Fund.

Peter Sands further noted that in 2004 Sierra Leone received the first Global Fund grant and since that time the country had continued to benefit immensely from the Fund in the response to HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis, and malaria, adding that they had enabled the country fight those three diseases.

“Significant results have been achieved through the Global Fund in Sierra Leone. The ambitious target would have great implication on the people to build a prosperous future for the country,” he told the meeting.

Minister of Health and Sanitation, Dr Austin Demby, said it was a special day in the relationship between the government of Sierra Leone and the Global Fund to fight AIDS, TB and malaria, adding that as the principal recipient of the Fund, his ministry was determined to intensify surveillance and epidemiology efforts to better understand the burden of HIV infections in the country, to reduce stigma, and to intensify efforts towards attaining the 95/95/95 goals and epidemic control of HIV.

The 95-95-95 strategy was announced by UNAIDS in 2014, aiming to end the AIDS epidemic by 2030 by achieving 95% diagnosed among all people living with HIV, 95% on antiretroviral therapy among diagnosed, and 95% virally suppressed among treated.

“We remain steadfast in our commitment to working with our partners to set ambitious targets and associated metrics to measure progress gained in the march towards the global goal of TB elimination by 2035,” he assured.

President Bio noted that in spite of disruptions occasioned by COVID-19, he believed that it was possible to get back on track in the country’s fights against the burdens of HIV/AIDS, TB, and Malaria, noting that getting back on track would require significant resource mobilisation.

“That is why my Government has been working hard to establish strong partnerships with reputable institutions and donor partners around the world. One such partner is the Global Fund.

“I am also pleased to further inform you that the Government of Sierra Leone has committed additional funding of $9,465,377 (Nine Million, Four Hundred and Sixty-Five Thousand, Three Hundred and Seventy-Seven United States Dollars) as counterpart funding to fight HIV/AIDS, TB, Malaria and Health system strengthening for the period spanning financial year 2021-2024,” he said.

The President further reiterated the fact that the Global Fund had been the largest investor in grants to build resilient and sustainable health systems in the country, adding that their investments in tools, systems, health workers, and laboratory resources were underpinning the government’s COVID-19 responses and other disease burdens in the country. “Be assured that Sierra Leone will continue to be a strong ally in all your high-level advocacy campaigns for strengthening health systems,” he concluded.