Kenya has suffered a major setback in its fight against HIV/Aids, malaria and tuberculosis after donors withdrew Sh4.9 billion for combating the killer diseases.
Details of the supplementary budget tabled in Parliament on Thursday show that donor funding from international financing organisation, The Global Fund, for HIV/Aids has been cut by Sh3.1 billion, hurting purchase of antiretroviral (ARV) drugs that prolong the lives of thousands of people.
The fund’s support for tuberculosis has also been cut by Sh1.4 billion and that of malaria is down by Sh400 million.
The fund’s cash is mainly used for buying commodities and life saving medicines for HIV/Aids, TB and malaria — the three infectious diseases that are among the leading causes of deaths in Kenya.
The Treasury did not reveal reasons behind the cut in donor support, but international health financiers had earlier expressed concern over poor accounting in the Ministry of Health amid fears over corruption.
In 2017, an internal audit showed the ministry could not account for Sh5 billion and funds meant for free maternity care had been diverted in what was dubbed the Afya House scandal.
In Kenya, 37 per cent of healthcare is funded by patients, 35 per cent by donors and 28 per cent by the State, the government says.
The donor cash cutback comes as Kenya reported a mixed bag in the struggle to curb the three diseases. Official data released on Wednesday indicates that deaths from malaria rose last year for the first time in more than a decade as HIV/Aids fatalities continue to drop on increased use of ARV drugs.
Deaths from malaria rose 9.7 per cent to 17,553 as those from HIV/Aids dropped to 8,758, from 9,471 in 2016 and 12,235 in 2014.
Fatalities from tuberculosis nearly doubled from 4,735 cases in 2016 to 9,081 last year. The disease has strongly been linked to HIV/Aids.
About 1.5 million Kenyans are HIV positive, with more than two-thirds on treatment, said the National Aids and STI Control Programme (Nascop).
The number of new infections in Kenya has almost halved over the last decade to 80,000 a year, Nascop said, thanks to increased testing, treatment and awareness.