Malawi has asked the World Bank to re-allocate $7 million (about K3.5 billion) funds meant for the National Aids Commission (NAC) HIV and Aids and Nutrition project to cater for Ebola Preparedness Plan (EPP), The Nation has established.
Ministry of Finance spokesperson Nations Msowoya confirmed that Treasury has made the request to the World Bank.
On the other hand, Ministry of Health spokesperson Henry Chimbali said the development does not mean Malawi is at a high risk of registering an Ebola case.
Said Chimbali: “Malawi is not at high risk of registering a case, but we are just putting our house in order. We don’t want to be caught unawares if Ebola does come to the country. We all know how serious this is and we are treating it as such.”
Chimbali said HIV and Aids activities will not be affected by the re-allocation because they would use the contingency budget line in the project.
“The government and the World Bank will explore ways of replacing these funds in the short to medium-term.
“Both Ebola and HIV are serious public health issues that require support. This re-allocation does not mean we are underplaying the threat of HIV, but we are just getting prepared to deal with any potential threat of Ebola should it hit Malawi,” he said.
Currently, NAC receives about K20 billion (US$40 million) for the HIV and Aids and Nutrition project, which has two more years remaining.
The project involves activities such as male medical circumcision, prevention of mother-to-child transmission (PMTC), rolling voluntary counselling and testing (VCT), scaling up grants and coordination of national response.
According to a letter dated November 5 2014 that we have seen, signed by Minister of Finance, Economic Planning and Development Goodall Gondwe, addressed to World Bank country director for Malawi, Zambia and Zimbabwe, Kandhavi Kadiressan, government says the funds will go a long way in setting up an emergency response for Ebola.
Reads the letter in part: “The bank is already aware that the World Health Organisation [WHO] is helping Malawi to establish a robust emergency response to prevent an outright outbreak in the first place and in the event of an outbreak, to contain the impact.
“Presently, with support from the Development Partners, the Malawi Government through the Ministry of Health has already developed an EPP, which details the national response, which currently faces a huge resource gap.”
The letter, copied to World Bank country manager Laura Kullenberg and Minister of Health Jean Kalirani, comes after a series of meetings between the World Bank and the Malawi Government, where a proposal was made to re-allocate the funds.
“You are aware that our country faces significant resource shortfalls in the social sectors, including health and that given the size and current vulnerability of the economy. I, therefore, hope that the Bank will act with urgency in responding to our request, especially in the view of the emergency nature of the situation. The money will be used to purchase Ebola medical commodities, build capacity for six emergency teams, and refurbish six existing structures into quarantine centres,” reads the letter.
Ebola virus disease, sometimes known as EVD, is a highly infectious. The survival rate is very low. Somewhere between 60 percent and 90 percent of the people who develop Ebola die.