Averting disaster: new urgency for U.S. support of the Global Fund in the next COVID-19 supplemental
Faster spreading viral mutations and a more deadly second wave in Africa – on top of major health and economic impacts and the need to ready vaccine delivery – increase the urgency for investment in the Global Fund
A second, more deadly wave of COVID-19 infection is hitting Africa. A new COVID-19 variant identified in South Africa has health officials deeply concerned as it appears to be spreading more rapidly. Already, some hospitals in South Africa are “on the brink of collapse.”
Rapid global spread of new COVID-19 viral variants identified in South Africa, the UK, and Japan – and the expectation of continued viral mutation – clearly demonstrate the United States will not be safe from COVID-19 unless we help other countries control their own COVID-19 epidemics.
The Global Fund is the lead multilateral agency working to procure and distribute COVID-19 tests, therapeutics, and PPE to protect health workers, and mitigate damage to AIDS, TB and malaria programs. $4 billion is needed as soon as possible for the Global Fund’s COVID-19 response as part of a broader investment to address COVID-19 in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs). The U.S. typically dedicates 1% of its annual budget to international assistance, but thus far it has provided only 0.2% in COVID-19 emergency funding for global aspects of the pandemic.
An evolving pandemic with worsening long-term health and economic consequences. COVID-19 is having an increasingly severe effect in Africa and in LMICs generally.
- The world stands to lose a decade or more of progress on AIDS, TB, malaria and child immunization unless we mitigate COVID-19 impacts on these programs. Half to two thirds of AIDS, TB and malaria programs report service disruptions. PEPFAR has stated that COVID-19’s “impact on HIV, tuberculosis (TB), and malaria prevention programs has been devastating.” The World Economic Forum reports COVID-19 could lead to three million excess deaths from AIDS, TB and malaria.
- UNICEF has called for averting a lost generation as COVID-19 threatens to cause irreversible harm to children’s education, nutrition and well-being.
- In January 2021 the World Bank warned that average living standards could be set back by a decade or more in a quarter of Sub-Saharan African economies.
- COVID-19 is limiting women’s participation in the labor pool and could damage women’s economic prospects for a generation.
- The Eurasia Group calculates that $207.1 billion in U.S. economic benefits are at risk from 2020-2025 if the global COVID-19 response is not adequately funded.
COVID-19 vaccines are essential – but only part of the answer. In December’s COVID-19 supplemental, Congress made a crucially important investment in Gavi, which is leading efforts to procure and deliver vaccines in 92 low-income economies. But Gavi funding addresses only one piece of the comprehensive global COVID-19 response required.
- Weak and shaken health systems need support as LMICs wait months or years for vaccines to be widely available.
- Africa CDC has noted the urgent need to scale up delivery of COVID-19 rapid diagnostic tests on the continent, calling them a “gamechanger.” Rapid testing is the backbone of COVID-19 surveillance, essential to containing outbreaks. Testing is critical for enabling economies to reopen safely. Viral mutation underscores the need for ample testing.
- COVID-19 vaccine delivery depends on testing capacity to understand how well vaccines are working and whether there is need for further vaccine development or greater population coverage.
- Effective rollout of vaccines in LMICs requires services the Global Fund is ready to support: deployment of diagnostic tests and PPE, shoring up fragile health systems (including labs), and recruiting and protecting community health care workers.
- It is critical that LMICs receive support to provide effective treatments for COVID-19 patients. The chance of the virus mutating increases with the use of ineffective treatments (like what we have seen with MDR-TB).
The Global Fund has run out of funds to assist countries in tackling COVID-19. In 2020, the Global Fund awarded nearly $1 billion to 106 countries to support their responses to COVID-19. Use of COVID–19 funding thus far breaks down as follows: 55% reinforcing national COVID-19 response; 34%: mitigating COVID-19 impact on HIV, TB and malaria programs; and, 11%: urgent improvements in health and community systems.
- The Global Fund has exhausted its funding to support country responses to COVID-19 and protect AIDS, TB and malaria programming.
- The Global Fund has estimated at least $28.5 billion is needed across international partners in the next 12 months to mitigate the impacts of COVID-19 (excluding vaccines).
- Donors – including Germany, Canada, Denmark, Norway, and Sweden – have provided support. Now U.S. leadership is needed with a $4 billion contribution to Global Fund COVID-19 efforts.