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Global Fund raises US$14 billion pledges

The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, backed by Emmanuel Macron, Bill Gates and Bono, said it reached its US$14 billion pledges target.

The world's biggest disease-fighting fund, backed by French President Emmanuel Macron, Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates and U2's Bono, said it reached its US$14 billion target in donations on Thursday to support locally run programs in more than 100 countries over the next three years.

The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria raised US$1.8 billion more in pledges for the 2020 to 2022 funding cycle than it did at the last pledging conference in 2016.

The Geneva-based financing tool was created in 2002 to save lives by reducing the prevalence of three major diseases that impede sustainable development around the world. It represented a new type of funding mechanism, aimed at bridging the gap between Western-led international aid donors and local authorities suspicious of foreign-led health programs.

Donor governments pay for 93% of its programs; the other 7% comes from the private sector and foundations. The money is distributed as grant money to local experts and partners, who run programs developed with input from local medical experts, governments and civil society. The programs must first be approved by independent experts and the fund's board members, then monitored by the inspector general's office and local fund agents.

Officials said the latest pledges from more than 75 donors represented the largest amount ever raised for a multilateral health organization, and the largest amount taken in by the Global Fund. That was in part due to Macron's appeal to all governments to increase their previous donations by at least 15%. Many of them did so at at the last minute.

“Everyone in the room today felt the power of a global community coming together to say in one voice: we will end these epidemics,” the fund's executive director, Peter Sands, said of the pledging conference in Lyon, France.

The United States pledged US$4.68 billion, or US$1.56 billion a year, accounting for a third of all donations, according to the Global Fund's final tallies.

The United Kingdom, the second-biggest donor, pledged US$1.716 billion, or US$572 million a year. Third-biggest was France's pledge of US$1.429 billion, or US$476.3 million a year, followed by Germany's pledge of US$1.102 billion, or US$367.3 million a year.

A promise to children

The multibillion-dollar organization is backed by celebrities and other global elites that frequent the World Economic Forum in the Swiss mountain resort of Davos.

“Today’s Global Fund replenishment result is an incredible achievement,” said Bill Gates. “This is a big day in the history of AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria — and one that no one expected two decades ago when the diseases were at their peak."

For the first time, private donors pledged more than US$1 billion. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation accounted for US$760 million, while Bono's (Red) campaign pledged US$150 million. Bono launched (Red) and The ONE Campaign in part to raise money for the Global Fund.

Maurine Murenga, a Global Fund board member who was diagnosed with HIV in the early 2000s, said she was particularly thankful for programs that focus on the disproportionate effects of HIV on women and girls.

“Those of us who survived HIV are here thanks to the Global Fund, but millions are still dying unnecessarily because they cannot access these life-saving programs,” said Murenga.

“Young women and girls have to be at the center of the response to HIV in Africa," she said. "We know change is possible and we have to act now.”

Sands noted that his organization has promised to end AIDS, TB and malaria by 2030, just as today's children are becoming adults.

"Today’s remarkable demonstration of global solidarity shows that the world is committed to keep that promise, by working stronger, faster and together," he said. "Ending AIDS, TB and malaria is the fight that unites, and thank you to all our many partners for stepping up the fight.”