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Shift in focus for donors may spell trouble: study

A man lies on a bed as he receives medical treatment at Phnom Penh’s National Center for Tuberculosis and Leprosy in 2013.
A man lies on a bed as he receives medical treatment at Phnom Penh’s National Center for Tuberculosis and Leprosy in 2013. Heng Chivoan

Shift in focus for donors may spell trouble: study

Dwindling donor funding for combating HIV/AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis could have a critical impact on low-income countries like Cambodia, a new study has found, with some health workers in the Kingdom saying that the squeeze is already being felt.

Between 2000 and 2009, development assistance for health increased at a rate of 11.3 per cent per year, a rate that fell to just 1.2 per cent per year from 2010 to 2015, according to the study published this month in the medical journal the Lancet.

The focus in funding is also changing, the study found. Between 2000 and 2009, growth in development assistance for HIV/AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis was the highest.

However, since 2010, the funding for those three diseases has remained flat or decreased, while funding in maternal health and newborn and child health continued to spike, according to the study.

Ly Penh Sun, director of the ministry’s National Centre for HIV/AIDS, Dermatology and STD Control (NCHADS), said the decrease in funding, especially for HIV/AIDS, has been evident in Cambodia for some time, and became especially pronounced in 2015.

The centre’s annual budget for HIV response is $50 million, with the vast majority coming from donors.

In recent years the government has been forced to step up its contributions – though it still covers only 12 per cent, he said.

“It’s very difficult,” he said this week. “It’s a turning point. [The fight against] HIV has been very successful in the past, but we are starting to see challenges.”

Dr Kasem Kolnary, director of the NGO Cambodia HIV/AIDS Education and Care, said his organisation had had to cut back on staff and services, such as home counselling visits, as a result of the slashed budgets.

“This is difficult,” he said, adding that the government doesn’t have enough funding to sustain several programs when donor funding dries up.

He said it was not uncommon for NGOs’ programs to simply disappear when the funding commitment comes to an end.

Luciano Tuseo, with the World Health Organization in Cambodia, said their funding for malaria was holding firm, but may prove inadequate.

“USAID . . . will increase the support [for] malaria activities in the country and new donors are ready to support malaria elimination in Cambodia,” he wrote in an email.

“Of course, malaria elimination is very expense [sic] and we’ll need more funds.”

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