HIV FINANCING

US Funding: Hundreds lose jobs as Pepfar budget cuts begin

The US President’s Emergency Plan for Aids Relief, which funds most HIV activities in Kenya, has been cutting funding to Kenya since 2017

In Summary

• US Global Aids Coordinator last week approved the Pepfar's Country Operational Plan 2019 for Kenya, which contains the budget cut, estimated at Sh13 billion.

• Pepfar says Kenya is now ready to take over some of the programmes previously funded by donors. 

ARVs
ARVs
Image: FILE

Hundreds of Kenyans working for NGOs funded by the US government to do HIV-related work have been laid off following severe budget cuts.

The organisations were required to close numerous activities by October 1, when the budget cuts begin.

The US President’s Emergency Plan for Aids Relief, which funds most HIV activities in Kenya, has been cutting funding to Kenya since 2017.

In 2017-18, Kenya received Sh57 billion, which was reduced to Sh50 billion last year, to the expected Sh37 billion this year.

The Star learnt the US Global Aids coordinator last week approved the Pepfar's Country Operational Plan 2019 for Kenya, which contains the budget cut, estimated at Sh13 billion.

However, the plan has not been shared with the affected organisations yet.

Pepfar says Kenya is now ready to take over some of the programmes previously funded by donors. 

"As Kenya gets closer to epidemic control, there needs to be a shift towards a more sustainable HIV-Aids programme with increased investments and responsibilities for the government of Kenya and other donors," Pepfar chief Deborah Birx said in a recent memo.

Some of the big NGOs affected include Path, Jhpiego, Pathfinder, Kisumu-based Impact Research and Development Organisation, and the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric Aids Foundation.

ICAP, an NGO that recently completed Kenya's biggest HIV survey called the Kenya Population-based HIV Impact Assessment (Kenphia), has moved from its large offices in Kilimani to a smaller office in Lavington with a lean staff. 

The Kenphia study will be released next month showing the number of Kenyans living with HIV is lower than was previously estimated. 

The survey will show Kenya has only about 1.1 million people living with HIV, with the burden now rising rapidly around the Mt Kenya region. 

Yesterday, some of the affected NGOs urged the Kenyan government to fill the gap.

"For us, this is not an opportunity to cry. The government should fill up the gap, both the national and county governments," said Nelson Otuoma, the head of Nephak, a network of NGOs in HIV work.

Government services have not been speared and the Kenya National Blood Transfusion Service will lose all funding, which is estimated at Sh2 billion.

 KNBTS director Fridah Govedi said nearly all their operations were donor-funded. 

"Currently, the department is 100 per cent donor-driven, but we are working to stop this reliance on donors," she told the parliamentary Health committee on Tuesday. 

Health CS Sicily Kariuki said the ministry had drafted the Blood Bill to make blood donations sustainable.

“The bill will provide a robust legislative and regulatory framework that aims to strengthen the current blood transfusion governance structures that will facilitate steady availability of the country’s blood needs,” Kariuki said.

She spoke last week after receiving the world’s top blood donor in Nairobi.

The  KNBTS is currently serving more than 500 transfusing hospitals nationally with blood and blood components. 

Pepfar officials recently said the budget cuts will not affect the provision of ARVs and other critical services. 

Kenya has received about Sh700 billion from Pepfar since it was founded 15 years ago and the country remains the programme's largest beneficiary. 

"It has always been clear the handover was coming," said a US government official, referring to plans to stop blood transfusion funding.

"In Africa, the transfer of responsibility to the country government in many countries has already happened. In Zambia it was after five years, in Kenya it was after 15 years."

Kenyan government only takes care of 20 per cent of HIV funding locally, with most support coming from Pepfar and Global Fund.

(Edited by F'Orieny)