KAMPALA, 18 Mar 2005 (IRIN) - The World Bank has announced a US $20-million grant to boost the fight against HIV/AIDS in six countries in Africa's Great Lakes region, which are home to an estimated six million people living with the condition.
The region is home to 3 million children orphaned or made vulnerable by the pandemic.
In a statement issued on Tuesday in Washington D.C., the World Bank said the grant would be under a new project known as the Great Lakes Initiative on HIV/AIDS (GLIA).
The bank said the project would finance "prevention, care, and treatment programmes for large numbers of refugees, migrant and transport workers, highly infected groups, and others which move between the Great Lakes countries".
The new project would also coordinate regional resources, merge regional HIV/AIDS approaches with national efforts, and monitor and evaluate regional efforts in Burundi, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda.
"Addressing HIV/AIDS solely on a country-by-country basis ignores large-scale migration across long, unguarded borders, and other regional realities, and misses an opportunity to make national programs more effective through transnational cooperation," said Keith Hansen, the manager of the World Bank's Multi-country HIV/AIDS Programme for Africa.
The multi-country programme has committed at least $1 billion in grants, loans, and credits to 29 Africa countries since September 2000.
"This project will add greatly to the reach and impact of national HIV/AIDS resources and programmes in a region of the world where HIV/AIDS has caused so much human misery and loss," Hansen added.
The bank said the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), working with an estimated 6.5 million refugees and internally displaced persons (IDPs) within the region, would get $8 million out of this grant to widen its HIV/AIDS work.
The bank said the region's large numbers of people living with HIV/AIDS were straining national economies as well as health systems, which, it said, could offer only limited access to treatment for both AIDS and "opportunistic" illnesses, such as tuberculosis.
"HIV/AIDS is dramatically fuelling a regional TB epidemic with up to 75 percent of TB patients in some countries co-infected," the bank said. "This is a particularly serious problem amongst displaced people in the region who are living in extremely difficult conditions."
It said DRC, Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda were amongst the nine highest TB burden countries in sub-Sahara Africa, where national economies were among the poorest, with $208 as their average per capita earnings.
The GLIA project includes support to HIV/AIDS related networks, with an allocation of $3 million. This would involve reaching long distance transport workers, communities and groups associated with them, as well as networks of people living with HIV/AIDS.
Another component, also of $3 million, would go to support regional health sector collaboration by helping to harmonise regional HIV/AIDS-related health sector policies and protocols across the six countries, along with sharing programme information, monitoring and evaluation, as well as training and pilot activities.
The last component, of $6 million, would handle management, capacity strengthening, monitoring and evaluation and reporting to help strengthen the institutional capacity of the project.
"The GLIA governments recognise the need to go beyond these modest efforts to create coordinated programmes and policies to better fight their HIV/AIDS pandemics," the World Bank said.
"We will only have concerted national success if there is cooperation, knowledge sharing and policy harmonisation across borders," Pamphile Kantabaze, the project co-task team leader and a senior operations officer in the World Bank's Burundi mission, was quoted as saying.
She added: "With limited financial and human resources to deal with the enormous HIV/AIDS tasks we collectively face in the Great Lakes, this collaboration is vital to all."
The GLIA project is the third cross-border, regional programme approved under the World Bank's Multi-country HIV/AIDS Programme (MAP) for Africa in the last 18 months.
In August 2004, the African Regional Capacity-Building Network for HIV/AIDS Prevention, Treatment, and Care project provided a $10-million grant to finance expanded training health care workers in Ethiopia, Kenya and Tanzania.
In November 2003, the Bank approved a $16.6-million grant to finance HIV/AIDS prevention, treatment and care services for risk groups along the heavily travelled Abidjan-Lagos corridor in western sub-Saharan Africa.
The UNHCR issued a statement on Friday in which it said the GLIA project was a joint effort by the World Bank, the UNAIDS Secretariat, UNHCR and governments in the region through their national AIDS programmes.
"GLIA is a new regional organisation, fully-owned, and will be operated by its six member countries," UNHCR said.
"The coming together of these countries to fight a common enemy - the HIV virus - is a historic event for the Great Lakes region, their people, and for the World Bank," Richard Seifman, the project co-task team Leader and a senior advisor in the World Bank's AIDS Campaign Team for Africa, said.
Programmes for refugees, returnees and surrounding communities make up the biggest component of the grant, with $8 million dedicated to these communities over four years. It said UNCHR would receive $5 million of these funds for its work with refugees and returnees in the six countries, while the remaining $3 million would supplement countries' existing World Bank grants for work with local host populations.