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HIV – Donor gives up on rural needy

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More than 100 local organisations involved mostly with HIV-prevention, children, gender-based violence and sex workers face a crisis because a major international donor is redirecting its funding from rural areas to major cities.

Global Fund, based in Switzerland, which works with organisations to fight HIV, tuberculosis and malaria, donates R1.7 billion for a period of three years.

The money goes to prominent organisations, including Lifeline, Childline, Thuthuzela Care Centres (TCCs) attached to courts to help sexual assault victims, the Sex Workers’ Education and Advocacy Task Force (Sweat), People Against Woman Abuse (Powa) and Partners in Sexual Health.

But from April 1 these organisations will have to shut some of their offices or cut back significantly as Global Fund will divert much of its financial backing to different geographical areas.

Marieta de Vos, programme director of the National Aids Convention of South Africa, said 111 organisations would close or cut back.

These included 26 organisations supporting more than 10 000 vulnerable children, 29 organisations helping 145 000 people fighting HIV, 16 helping 3 000 victims of gender-based violence, two sex worker organisations, outreach groups at 23 universities and organisations supporting 7 000 gay, lesbians and transgender students at 14 universities.

Affected organisations are scrambling for funding and have appealed to the government to bail them out.

The Northern Cape, Free State and Mpumalanga provinces are the hardest hit.

Wits research associate Lisa Vetten said 28 of the 41 Thuthuzela Care Centres, which rely on non-governmental organisations’ support, have lost their funding.

Lifeline, Childline and Powa have confirmed they were among the organisations withdrawing from Thuthuzela.

”While some TCC-based organisations in other provinces would still receive funding, this did not include the Free State or Northern Cape,” said Vetten.

Organisations would either have to stop providing services altogether or, replace 24-hour services with a daytime service.

Vetten commented: “Post-rape care is like the casualty section of a hospital – you will always need it. Donors must ensure that services are not here today and gone tomorrow”.

Seven of Lifeline’s 15 centres face closure or cutbacks. Colleen Rogers, Lifeline’s Vaal director, confirmed the Vaal centre alone received between R50 000 to R70 000 each month.

Lifeline centres in the Free State and Northern Cape as well as Durban and Zululand in KwaZulu-Natal, the Vaal in Gauteng, Klerksdorp and Mafikeng in North West are in trouble.

Counsellors’ stipends would be lowered from R2 000 to R1 250 and they would cut back on fuel, rent and stationary.

Lifeline’s HIV tests at TCCs would stop too.

Rogers said: “Anyone who has been raped ends up at Thuthuzela. Lifeline’s presence at Thuthuzelas will end. NGOs are always at the bottom of the pile. Our value is being discarded.”

Childline chief executive Dumisile Nala confirmed a R25 million grant, 35 percent of its funding, was lost.

The organisation would stop providing counselling at 13 TCCs.

She said programmes providing therapy to about 500 survivors of sexual abuse and about 400 boys who show inappropriate sexual behaviour would end in rural areas. So children with least access to services would suffer.

“NGOs provide a huge service to the country. We must look to our government and ask: What are we doing as a country?”

Sex workers organisation Sweat director Sally Shackleton said it was closing offices in seven Western Cape towns at the end of the month.

These were Paarl, Worcester, Atlantis, Vredenburg, Oudtshoorn, Knysna and George.

Sweat provincial co-ordinator Eugene van Rooyen said 38 staff members would lose their jobs, while at least 680 sex workers would be without support services.

Powa chief executive officer Sakina Mohamed said they were forced to withdraw counsellors and social workers from certain care centres. “It’s a big crisis. Women are falling off the agenda globally. Providing less and less money to violence against women is violent in itself.

“A follow-up plan should be worked out long before the funding is taken away to prevent projects from collapsing.

“Otherwise it’s like giving people food for a few years and suddenly taking it away”.

Partners in Sexual Health has lost a quarter of its funding – R2.4m – and their sex worker and youth programmes will end.

The organisation is cancelling its Beaufort West-based programme that trained sex workers to become peer educators and supported sex workers who work along the N1.

It’s also canning youth programmes in Colesberg and Hanover in the Northern Cape that offered access to health clinics and focused on victim empowerment and assisting teenage parents.

The organisation’s chief executive, Patsy de Lores, said: “We’ve built it up, but now it’s falling flat in our faces.

“It has a huge impact.”

The Global Fund said it would continue to finance South Africa to the tune of R1.7bn over the next three years.

It is prioritising gender- based violence and sex worker programmes, said Ernest Waititu, Global Fund editorial specialist. He said the Global Fund was targeting districts with the highest number of people.

Waititu said South Africa’s Country Co-ordinating Mechanism (SACCM) decided who should be funded.

The SACCM’s Dr Fareed Abdullah acknowledged that the changes came “too quick”.

De Vos said Nacosa, the implementing agent and a non-voting member of SACCM, “has never and would never inform the Global Fund that funding should be withdrawn”.

De Vos said Nacosa, which has 1 000 members, would continually seek alternative funding for the affected organisations, but it was “not responsible for continued fundraising once grants end”.

[Source: Sunday Argus]

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