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Zimbabwe Central Bank Reimburses Global Fund - New Monies Uncertain

The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria expressed satisfaction on Friday at the release by the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe of US$7.3 million in monies which had been provided to the country but that the central bank had failed to produce for months.

The Global Fund issued a statement saying that the Reserve Bank late Thursday "released US$7.3 million...which it had held on behalf of three commercial banks" since late 2007 when it obliged commercial banks to "lodge" hard currency with the central bank.

"The Global Fund greatly appreciates this development which will accelerate the life-saving activities of the malaria, TB and HIV programs supported by the Global Fund in Zimbabwe," the statement quoted Global Fund Executive Director Michel Kazatchkine as saying.

The statement emerged as the Global Fund board was meeting in New Delhi, India, to take final decisions on the allocation of US$3 billion under its eight funding round.

Many in Zimbabwe were anxiously waiting to see whether the country would participate in that round in light of the apparent diversion of donor funds by the central bank. A Global Fund spokesman said the board's decisions would be announced on Monday.

Zimbabwe's HIV/AIDS community was encouraged recently by word that the Global Fund's technical assessment committee gave a favorable reading to its application for US$500 million in new funding - but those hopes were dashed by the recent controversy.

Regional Coordinator Tapiwa Kujinga of the Southern Africa Treatment Access Movement said that although Zimbabwe has produced the missing US$7.3 million, this does not guarantee that Zimbabwe will receive the funds it so desperately needs.

Roughly one in five adult Zimbabweans is believed to be infected with HIV. While hundreds of thousands need antiretroviral drug therapy, only about 150,000 are receiving it.

Meanwhile the Zimbabwean public health care system is crashing, with major state hospitals in Harare largely shut down amid staff strikes and material shortages.

Global Fund Communications Director John Liden told reporter Carole Gombakomba of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that without significant changes in financial policies, the international organization may find it difficult to consider Zimbabwe for round eight funds.

More reports from VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe...