Liberia

Liberia: Help sought for nation's TB patients

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MONROVIA, 26 April 2007 (IRIN) - The Liberian government's National Leprosy and Tuberculosis Control Programme says treatment for more than 4,000 tuberculosis patients is at risk because of a lack of funding.

Financing under the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria ended in February and is not likely to resume until December.

"In the absence of this funding we may end up losing our staff because they may start looking somewhere else for better incentives, while we may not be able to maintain our materials," said Lawuo Gwesa, the programme's manager.

She said laboratory generators and motorcycles used to deliver medicine to the programme's 4,514 TB patients throughout the country might not have sufficient fuel because of the lack of funding, which will slow down supervision and testing of patients.

"One major concern now is the need to have the available resources to maintain the staff to supply the patients the regular drugs," she said.

Gwesa also said that the feeding programme for the 106 TB patients in the National TB Annex building in Monrovia could be threatened as well without additional resources. There are more than 17,000 people living with TB in Liberia.

The Global Fund said funding ended in February and did not immediately resume "because of the quality of the proposals" submitted by the Tuberculosis Control Programme, said Mark Willis, the Fund's Geneva-based portfolio manager for Liberia.

He did not elaborate on the specific details of Liberia's rejection, but said that often when funding is denied it is because the programme in question is not fully integrated into the national system, is overly ambitious or under-ambitious, or technical aspects are not in line with what is currently best practice.

Willis said the Global Fund was trying to mobilise support among major donors in Liberia for the TB programme and the malaria programme pending new proposals for funding that, if successful, would yield financial assistance in December. Funding for the malaria programme also expired in February.

"On the malaria side there has been some success [with donor funding] but I haven't seen that much interest on the TB side," he said.

"If they got accepted in November we would make a quick effort to get out there," Willis said. "We would make every effort to sign a new grant almost immediately."

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