Gates Foundation boosts funding and confidence in troubled Global Fund

Bill & Melinda Gates at Davos 2010

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has pledged another $750 million to the ‘troubled’ Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria.

Associated Press Gates Injects $750 Million in Troubled Global Fund

Washington Post Gates Injects $750 Million in Troubled Global Fund After Director Resigns

Troubled seems to be part of the Global Fund’s official title these days.

Yesterday, Reuters reported that the head of the Global Fund, Michel Kazatchine, quit due to funding cuts. That’s not quite right. It is true that this initiative created to fight AIDS, TB and malaria has seen funding decline as donors have reneged on their promised pledges.

Kazatchine appears to have resigned largely due to the allegations of mismanagement and tolerance of corruption in an internal shake-up. Some accused donors of using these allegations — which seemed to me a bit hyped as I wrote here and here — as an excuse not to come through with the promised funds.

The subsequent failure of donors and governments to follow through on funding to the Global Fund following this flap made Canadian politician and former UN AIDS ambassador Stephen Lewis absolutely apoplectic.

All this makes the announcement today by Bill Gates at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland very welcome news to many in the global health community. Davos is the same place he and Melinda announced more than a decade ago that they were giving the same amount of money to launch the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization (GAVI).

Here’s a series of reports from 2001, in the wake of that announcement, I wrote for the Seattle PI.

There just seems to be something the Gateses like about announcing global funds at Davos and giving that $750 million figure. Some saw GAVI as a model for the later creation of the Global Fund.

Both are collaborative international projects that award grants to poor countries based on their performance in combating diseases of poverty — one aimed at fighting the top three killers and the other aimed at boosting childhood vaccinations in poor countries.

Both have trouble with “fraud and mismanagement” which, to some extent, comes from them handing over more control of in-country operations to, uh, countries not known for doing too well at combating fraud and mismanagement. But if the subcontractor shirks on the plumbing, the contractor pays for the leaks.

After the Gates announcement, Sarah Boseley at The Guardian raised an interesting question in her article today The Global Fund – saved and wrapped in a US flag?

With the Gates Foundation stepping in where the international community has stepped back, Boseley asks if the Global Fund risks becoming a bit too unilateral, less European. That may sound petty from an American perspective, but it’s not. These initiatives really can only succeed if they are truly multilateral.

Politics aside: Between these two funds over the past decade, more than 10 million deaths have been prevented and some disease rates in poor countries have been significantly reduced. Not a bad return.

Here’s a pretty good video from the Global Fund making its case with a little help from Bono, Bill Gates, Bill Clinton and others (many of whom who are probably now in Davos):


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Tom Paulson

Tom Paulson is founder and lead journalist at Humanosphere. Prior to operating this online news site, he reported on science,  medicine, health policy, aid and development for the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. Contact him at tom[at] or follow him on Twitter @tompaulson.