Lilongwe — The Malawi government says so far 650,000 people in the country have lost their lives due to AIDS in the past two decades.
Hetherwick Ntaba, Minister of Health Ministry said this at the official opening of the Annual Review meeting for the National response to HIV and AIDS organized by the country's National AIDS Commission (NAC).
Ntaba said Malawi is estimated to lose up to 70, 000 people due to AIDS each year, creating approximately 70, 000 orphans each year.
"At present 850, 000 children are orphans, 50% of these are a result of AIDS deaths," said the minister who acknowledged that at least 14.4 % of those between 15-49 years are infected, Malawi's prevalence rate is one of the world's highest.
"The National AIDS Commission estimated that in 2003, there were about 1 million adults and children living with HIV in the country," he said, "It is hoped the 2005 national HIV estimates will be ready before the end of this year through the HIV sentinel Survey and Malawi Demographic Health Survey (DHS plus)."
Ntaba said with the HIV situation, it was imperative that efforts be geared up despite achieving tremendous progress in 2004/05 to address the challenges still being faced.
"The meeting that I open today affords us all as individual implementers, donors, development partners and government an opportunity to review and reflect on these achievements and challenges to develop interventions that would begin to reverse the situation," he said.
Ntaba also touched the issue of mobilization and use of financial resources which his government has received from the Global fund, UN family and bilateral donors for implementation of various HIV and AIDS interventions including procurement of Anti-Retroviral (ARVs) drugs.
Most of these funds, said the health minister, himself a medical surgeon, have been disbursed to community based organisations (CBOs), faith-based organisations, private and public sector institutions to support planned projects.
In the 2004/05 fiscal year, the government through NAC approved grants worthy MK6.7 billion to various institutions including government ministries, local and international NGOs, civil society organisations and the private sector.
Ntaba however bemoaned delays in the processing of grants to CBOs in some districts because umbrella organisations identified by NAC to run HIV/AIDS and the district assemblies are not working properly.
Ntaba noted that in some districts, the challenge was the quality of proposals and interventions that are supported even when they are of poor quality that cannot yield a meaningful impact in national response.
Out of the 2004/05 approved grants, MK500 million has been granted to 500 CBOs including youth and faith based organisations through assemblies by the five umbrella organisations working across the country namely: the World Vision International, CPAR, Save the Children US, Action Aid and Plan International.
MK 4.2 billion was awarded through NAC's Financial Management Agency (FMA) to 77 institutions including government ministries, local and international organisations and large civil society organisations.
MK2.0 billion was used to procure Health Products including ARVs through UNICEF.