Christoph Benn: Future challenges for The Global Fund
March 16, 2010
Dr. Christoph Benn, director of external relations for the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, came to CSIS Friday morning for lunch with a small but diverse group from around the D.C. global health community. In a busy hour-long session, Dr. Benn addressed the Global Fund’s successes, its future challenges, and the particular importance of 2010.
For each of the three diseases in the Global Fund’s mandate, Dr. Benn argued that the last decade was an unprecedented one. Per 100,000 people, the incidence of tuberculosis fell from 220 people in 2000 to 170 in 2008. In 2000, said Dr. Benn, virtually no one living with AIDS in low- and middle-income countries was receiving antiretrovirals. By 2008, over 4 million people had gained access to life-saving treatment. Malaria, he said, has gone from a disease largely neglected in 2000 to one on the path to elimination today. The decade proved health, he said, to be “an excellent investment with really good results.”
Despite these impressive outcomes, however, the international economic crisis and political transitions in donor countries make long-term planning difficult for the financially-oriented organization. The Global Fund is navigating the transition of emerging economies like Russia, China, India, and Brazil from recipients to donors. The Fund must also determine its role and the flexibility of its mandate in building broader health systems that promote health beyond the treatment and prevention of AIDS, TB, and malaria.
Many of these issues reach a crucial stage in 2010, which is a replenishment year for the Global Fund’s coffers. Dr. Benn said that donors must determine their contribution levels before an October 5 meeting at the United Nations chaired by U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki Moon.
Dr. Benn welcomed the arrival of President Obama’s Global Health Initiative but said that to succeed the new U.S. effort would have to work hand-in-hand with multilateral organizations like the Global Fund. The Fund’s ability to pool global resources and work with civil society make it a key complement to the Initiative, he said, adding, “We will only succeed together.”