The Global Fund has saved 50 million lives. So why has the UK refused to make a promise? | sara champion

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TThe Global Fund is a global campaign to defeat HIV, tuberculosis (TB) and malaria. I am proud that, as co-founder of the fund, the UK has had a very important role to play in working towards this goal. To date, 50 million lives have been saved. Since its inception, the Global Fund has reduced the combined mortality rate of these three diseases by helping the countries in which it invests.

This week, as Liz Truss attended her first United Nations general assembly as prime minister, she set out to outline her government’s plans and promote Britain on the world stage. The Global Fund pledging conference, which took place on Wednesday, was an opportunity for the UK to show its continued support and commitment to this vital organisation. Unfortunately, no promises were made.

I welcome the UK’s continued political commitment to the Global Fund, but I am deeply concerned about the lack of funding. While the government refuses to commit the necessary funds, time is ticking in the fight against these diseases and millions of lives hang in the balance.

In 2019, the UK contributed £1.4bn in the latest replenishment of the fund, making Britain the second largest donor after the US. During the life of the Global Fund, the UK has been the third largest donor, paving the way for others to follow.

This year, the Global Fund aims to raise a total of $18bn and asks the UK to commit £1.82bn, a 30% increase from 2019. Investing in the Global Fund has been a priority major for the UK and we have been at the forefront of the race to end these epidemics; now is not the time to withdraw our support.

As the Independent Commission for the Impact of Aid, the UK’s aid watchdog, stated in its recent report: The Global Fund is the project covered by government Overseas Development Assistance (ODA) that It has the best value for money. With this in mind, it is hard to believe that the government is choosing to ignore the facts and not fully commit to this cause.

UK taxpayers’ money has been at the heart of the Global Fund’s investment and has helped eradicate these diseases for two decades. It would not provide good value for money or a return on our investment if we did not commit the full amount and urgently.

Failing to fight the spread of these epidemics abroad puts us all at risk at home. The internal fight against these diseases is based on the global effort to eradicate them completely. The fight does not end at our door.

This is particularly clear since the Covid-19 pandemic. This showed how interconnected our world is and how easily viruses and diseases in one country can affect our own public health. Another example of this is the fight against polio. In 2021, the UK cut funding for the Global Polio Eradication Initiative. We have now seen the return of the polio virus to this country and it is alarming that cases are increasing since its eradication in most parts of the world. The fight against HIV, tuberculosis and malaria is far from over, which makes it all the more worrying that the UK is shying away from its global commitments, putting us all at risk.

It is outrageous that the UK remains one of the last countries to make a pledge, but there is still time to reassert our position as a leader in international development. The UK must make an ambitious commitment and match the 30% increase we have seen from our G7 allies.

The time for empty words has passed; real action is needed to support the world’s most vulnerable. They need our commitment, and they need it now.

The Global Fund has saved 50 million lives. So why has the UK refused to make a promise? | sara champion

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