January 11, 2011 / 1:49 PM / 9 years ago

Global health fund freezes some Ivory Coast aid

GENEVA (Reuters) - The Global Fund to fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria said on Tuesday it was freezing disbursement of grants to the Ivory Coast and taking measures to safeguard its stocks and funds due to political instability.

The West African country, the world’s largest cocoa producer, is mired in a tense political stand-off. The United Nations say more than 200 people have been killed in violence.

The World Bank and International Monetary Fund (IMF) have cut off incumbent leader Laurent Gbagbo for refusing to step down after a November 28 election that his presidential rival Alassane Ouattara is widely recognised to have won.

“Due to the current political instability, we have decided to freeze disbursements to principal recipients until further notice,” Global Fund spokeswoman Veronique Taveau told a news briefing.

However, the Geneva-based fund would allow procurement and distribution of life-saving drugs against the HIV virus and malaria, to continue, provided partner agencies, including the charity CARE, seek its prior authorisation.

The Global Fund has a 163 million euro programme against the three epidemics in Ivory Coast, according to Taveau. Malaria is the largest operation, accounting for 109 million.

Its stock of 8.6 million insecticide-treated mosquito nets in the country will not be distributed for now due to fears of vandalism or misuse. Malaria kills nearly 20,000 people a year in the Ivory Coast.

An estimated 480,000 Ivorians are living with the HIV virus, but only one in seven receives life-extending drugs known as anti-retroviral therapy, according to the Fund. An estimated 150,000 have tuberculosis.

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