Earlier this month, the Board of the Global Fund met virtually for its 44th meeting. Convening in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic that has caused more than 50 million cases and 1.27 million deaths, the Board was appreciative of the Global Fund’s rapid and thorough response to the COVID-19 crisis while working to protect progress in the fight against HIV, TB and malaria. The Board also noted that there was a significant amount of work yet to be done in ensuring countries were equipped to handle any future waves of COVID-19 and protect hard-won gains in the long-term.
Peter Sands, Executive Director of the Global Fund, stressed the need to increase funding and expand the response to fight COVID-19, reinforce systems for health, and get back on track to end HIV, TB and malaria as epidemics by 2030. “At the moment, COVID-19 is killing roughly the same number of people every week as HIV, TB and malaria combined,” said Sands in his opening address to the Board. “We did, I think, avert the immediate worst-case scenario of impact on HIV, TB and malaria. But we should have no illusions; there has been a significant impact, and over time the failure to contain COVID-19, and its financial and economic consequences, will further erode our ability to fight the three diseases. There is no scenario that we make the progress we want against HIV, TB and malaria while COVID-19 is unchecked.”
The Global Fund is playing a leading role in the global response to the pandemic and is a founding partner of the Access to COVID-19 Tools (ACT) Accelerator, a global collaboration of organizations and governments working to accelerate the development, production and equitable access to new COVID-19 tests, treatments and vaccines – once available. The Global Fund is a co-convener with the Foundation for Innovative Diagnostics on the diagnostics partnership, the workstream co-lead for procurement and deployment within the therapeutics partnership, and a co-convener alongside the World Bank within the health systems connector.
Roslyn Morauta, Vice-Chair of the Board, echoed the views of other Board members in stressing the importance of community involvement and leadership in the fight against COVID-19 and the role the Global Fund has played to support civil society engagement in the ACT-Accelerator coalition. “Just as we have learned in the fights against HIV, TB and malaria, communities are critical in the fight against infectious disease – in making sure vulnerable populations aren’t left behind, that local solutions are prioritized, and that community systems like community health workers are a core part of the response,” she said.
As the Global Fund partnership continues deliberations on the post-2022 strategy, there was broad consensus among Board members that the Global Fund’s role in global health security is a key issue. The Global Fund is the largest investor in grants to build resilient and sustainable systems for health; those investments – in tools, systems, health workers and laboratory resources – are now underpinning the responses to COVID-19 in many low- and middle-income countries, and will be equally critical in helping countries face the next pandemic.
Dr. Donald Kaberuka, Chair of the Board, also stressed the need for the next strategy to focus on how to step up the global effort to get back on track to ending HIV, TB and malaria by 2030. “In a context of economic downturn and challenges for health financing, it is all the more important to leverage the Global Fund catalytic role and make sure that our future strategy addresses key challenges including in incidence reduction across the three diseases while building on the many lessons from the COVID-19 response,” said Kaberuka.
The Board also discussed pressing resource mobilization needs for the COVID-19 Response and commended the more than USD 200 million in additional funds already committed by public and private donors. Showing commitment to fighting COVID-19 and getting back on a trajectory needed to end HIV, TB and malaria as epidemics by 2030, the Board also approved operational plans for 2021, including a slightly increased operating expenses budget.
The Private Sector Constituency (PSC) represents the private sector on the Global Fund Board and Committees and serves an essential role in shaping the Global Fund’s strategy. It is comprised of 22 companies and is represented on the Global Fund Board by Board Member Sherwin Charles of Nando’s/Goodbye Malaria and Alternate Board Member Paul Schaper of Merck Sharp & Dohme. As the PSC Focal Point, GBCHealth facilitates the engagement of member companies and private sector peers to ensure representation of private sector views in the Global Fund’s deliberations and to provide valuable input on issues such as strategy, ethics and governance, audit and finance, procurement and quality assurance, market dynamics, health systems strengthening, innovation, and impact.