Zimbabwe will receive US$25million to improve its preparedness and strengthen local mechanisms against Coronavirus (COVID-19) from the Global Fund.
So far, the Ministry of Health and Child Care has reassured people there is no confirmed case of COVID-19 in Zimbabwe.
Addressing media at a press briefing Wednesday in Bulawayo, Minister of Health and Child Care, Obadiah Moyo, said the donation would boost Zimbabwe’s efforts to prepare against the virus, which has been declared a global pandemic by the World Health Organisation (WHO) since it has rapidly spread across the world.
“Global Fund has indicated to the possibility of awarding Zimbabwe with $25 million towards the COVID-19 preparedness, which is an additional five percent grant of the support (US$500 million) the country received to fight AIDS, TB and Malaria. This is very good support and we really appreciate it, as we are looking for funds on a continuous basis daily, engaging local partners and corporates,” he said.
Dr Moyo said Global Fund would most likely release the funds within five days, where the country hoped to refurbish its main isolation hospitals – Thorngrove Hospital in Bulawayo and Wilkins Hospital in Harare.
“We want to spruce these institutions so that any client who ends up isolated at these units will be comfortable. This is an ongoing exercise, already we had one of our partners visiting Wilkins Hospital and equally some partners will come through to Thorngrove to come up with a comprehensive refurbishment plan. It shouldn’t take too long, we have contractors who are working really fast,” he claimed.
Minister Moyo said the ministry had submitted these plans to Global Fund.
“This is what we have on our list that we are submitting – the issue of sprucing up of our facilities, which is beside the issues of protective, safety equipment. We want the other hospitals to be able to have isolation or quarantine unit available countrywide and not a situation where if COVID-19 was to affect our country – from a small town, we would be unable to give assistance. So we should be ready at each provincial hospital and each central hospital to create some form of isolation unit,” Moyo noted.
The Global Fund Executive Director, Peter Sands, who was in the country for the first time – to oversee how projects under grant funds are managed – said the donation was made possible through flexibilities in grants.
“So the idea of introducing the flexibility was to be able to help countries move quite quickly in preparing for COVID-19. The flexibilities, which is in the current grant cycle was enhanced last week, where we said we will make decisions with a maximum of five days when we receive requests. My understanding from my conversations is the ministry is looking hard at the flexibilities and how it fits into the planning and I expect this is something that would be resolved within a matter of days,” he explained.
But Sands was emphatic that fighting AIDS, TB and Malaria remained a priority for the Global Fund.
“We are not pretending the Global Fund to fight HIV, TB and Malaria is going to be the Global Fund to fight COVID-19. We have to maintain our focus on HIV and TB because these are the diseases killing most people, particularly in the poorest parts of the world. It is a sobering fact that in the now two months since COVID-19 was announced, about 500 000 people have died from AIDS, TB and Malaria across the world. So while it is very important that we help pragmatically countries like Zimbabwe respond to COVID-19, we must also not take our eye off the ball of helping end the epidemics of AIDS, TB and Malaria,” he underscored.
He said that is due to the particular specification where Global Fund money can be deployed.
“Our money with regards to COVID-19 is to help countries gear up and have their preparations going fast. We don’t pretend that it is going to be the complete answer to dealing with COVID-19 response and there are other sources such as the World Bank that has given considerable sums that should be available,” Sands added.
WHO declared COVID-19 a global pandemic Wednesday, as the new Coronavirus, has rapidly spread to more than 121 000 people from Asia to the Middle East, Europe, United States and Africa.