NEW YORK - The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria on Wednesday sought to raise at least $18 billion at a donor conference led by US President Joe Biden, as decades of progress against the three diseases are set back by Covid.
It is the highest ever "replenishment" goal set by the organization, which brings together governments, multilateral agencies, civil society groups and the private sector.
"Setbacks are not destiny," USAID administrator Samantha Power told attendees. "We have the knowledge, the tools, and in the Global Fund, the right mechanism to regain ground and continue our push to end these diseases. What we need is the will."
Before the event, Global Fund spokeswoman Francoise Vanni told AFP she was encouraged by early pledges -- including $6 billion from the United States, 1.3 billion euros from Germany and $1.08 billion from Japan -- that had brought the fund "about halfway" to its target.
"There's a lot at stake, and the $18-billion target is very much based on getting back on track to end AIDS, TB and malaria by 2030, recovering ground lost during the Covid pandemic and saving no less than 20 million lives over the next three years," she said.
The amount is 30 percent more than that raised during the organization's sixth and most recent replenishment, hosted by President Emmanuel Macron of France in 2019, which raised a then-record $14 billion.
The Global Fund was created in 2002, with new funding cycles usually every three years.
World Health Organization head Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus highlighted how life expectancy in Japan was 84 years, while in Lesotho it was just 50 years.
"Much of that difference is due to the fact that HIV, TB and malaria still kill millions in the poorest communities of the poorest countries," he said.
"Thanks in large part to the Global Fund, these diseases kill half as many people now as they did 20 years ago. That’s quite a progress. However, those gains are at risk."
- Signs of recovery -
Last year, the Global Fund warned that the pandemic was having a "devastating" impact on its work, leading to declining results across the board for the first time in the fund's history.
But it said last week that the massive resources it had pumped to counter the downturn had paid off and "recovery is underway" against all three diseases.
For example, the number of people dying from TB rose for the first time in a decade in 2020, when it caused an estimated 1.5 million deaths, making it the world's second-biggest infectious disease killer behind Covid.
But the Global Fund, which provides 76 percent of all international financing for fighting TB, said the programs had shown signs of recovery last year.
Similarly, the number of people provided with HIV prevention services rose again after dropping in 2020, reaching 12.5 million people worldwide, the organization said. The fund provides nearly a third of all international financing to battle HIV.
Interruptions in health services during the pandemic also extracted a heavy toll on the battle against malaria, sending deaths soaring 12 percent in 2020, to an estimated 627,000.
But the Global Fund said a rapid scale-up of programs had allowed them to bounce back, with some 280 million suspected cases tested and 148 million cases treated last year.
Per an act of Congress, the United States cannot provide more than one-third of funding for the Global Fund -- a limit that serves as a matching challenge to other nations to double the American pledge.