Global Fund grants Yemen $32 million to fight diseases [Archives:2006/1004/Front Page]

December 4 2006

Amel Al-Ariqi
SANA'A, Dec. 3 ) The Global Fund has granted Yemen $32 million to fight AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis, Minister of Health and Population Dr. Abdulkarim Rasa' announced Saturday.

“Yemen has been awarded $14 million to fight AIDS, $12 million for malaria and $6 million for tuberculosis,” Rasa' stated at the opening ceremony of the fourth regional meeting of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria in the Middle East.

Held for the first time in Yemen, the Global Fund regional meeting concludes today.

Yemen is one of the Middle Eastern nations suffering under the burden of these three diseases. Ministry of Health statistics reveal that 60 percent of Yemen's population is at risk from malaria, which is one of the nation's biggest health challenges.

Although Yemen has made progress in its fight against the disease – for example, epidemic infection in the Tihama, located 226 km. west of Sana'a, has dropped from 46 percent to 11 percent – Yemen remains one of the most malaria-affected countries in the Middle East, with an estimated 800,000 cases annually, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

Regarding TB, Yemen's National Tuberculosis Institute registered 9,063 cases in 2005. Studies show that an individual with untreated, active tuberculosis can infect 10 to 15 others every year. If left untreated, the death rate for such active TB cases is more than 50 percent.

HIV/AIDS specialists working in Yemen say actual figures are higher than those provided by the Ministry of Health. According to the ministry, as of this past April, there were 1,821 individuals living with HIV/AIDS in Yemen. Of those, 417 had AIDS while the rest were HIV-positive. At least 60 percent of the total was male, 44 percent were children and 45 percent were foreigners. However, the 2005 WHO report estimates the number of HIV/AIDS patients in Yemen at 11,600.

Dr. Fawzia Gharamah, executive manager of the National AIDS Program, confirms that Yemen has purchased $982,000 worth of medication and modern medical equipment to enable two centers – Al-Jumhury Hospital in Sana'a and Aden Hospital – to offer free AIDS testing. She noted that the medication will be distributed according to WHO standards for treating AIDS patients.

Created in 2003, the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria has committed more than $435 million over two years via 56 grants in 18 Middle Eastern and North African countries. Nearly $185 million of this amount has been distributed to date.

“The Global Fund's fourth regional meeting aims to define the fund's impact in Middle Eastern and North African nations,” Rasa' noted, adding that the meeting isn't limited to governmental representatives, like usual. Rather, it also includes representatives of civil society organizations and private sectors that influence fund activities and the health sector in general.

Attended by approximately 150 participants from the Middle East and North Africa, the meeting seeks to review such countries' experiences in fighting these three diseases. Rasa' remarked, “In our current era, nations are in great proximity to each other. Moreover, the world has come to resemble a small village. Therefore, disease threatens all of us and epidemics penetrate our geographical and political borders to infect and disable our citizens.”

According to Global Fund's deputy executive director, while the prevalence of HIV/AIDS remains low in the Middle East, it has become a generalized epidemic in countries such as Pakistan, Somalia and Sudan. Additionally, many Middle Eastern nations are highly burdened by TB, namely Djibouti, Egypt, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen.

She pointed out that the Middle East also is far from being free of malaria, as morbidity and mortality rates continue to be high in Chad, Djibouti, Sudan, Somalia and Yemen.