by Savitha C Muppala on  June 17, 2010 at 2:55 PM AIDS/HIV News
 Global Fund Halts Aid to Zambia Following Proof of Corruption in the Health Ministry
The Global Fund to battle AIDS and other killer diseases has stopped aid to Zambia, following concrete proof of corruption in the country's health ministry.

The decision to suspend crucial aid to the poor southern African country was made at a Global Fund meeting in Geneva in April, but only seen on its website Wednesday.

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A report from the Fund said its own auditors were "unable to provide assurance as to the safety of investing further funds through the ministry of health, while the issues surrounding the investigations by national authorities remain unresolved".

"The national authorities have failed thus far to provide assurances of appropriate action regarding fraud against Global Fund grant programs," it said.

However Zambia?s Health Minister Kapembwa Simbao denied the suspension of funds and said there had been no indication from the organisation to halt donations.

"The other half is still there for us as a country to use, there is nowhere, where it is indicated that Global Fund will withdraw or stop funding the country?s health sector," Simbao said.

The Global Fund is Zambia's main donor to the health sector, and the suspension of aid will likely hinder the nation's efforts to fight AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria.

The Fund's website says its grants keep nearly 230,000 people on anti-AIDS treatments.

Last year the Netherlands suspended 13 million euros (18 million dollars) in aid to Zambia's health sector, also because of alleged corruption.

An audit of aid to Zambia last year uncovered evidence of fraud and other irregularities, with the government not taking any action.

Zambia's commitment to fighting corruption was called into question last year when a court acquitted former president Frederick Chiluba of corruption, despite an earlier conviction in a British court and verdicts against others accused in the same case.

Source: AFP

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