KATHMANDU, Oct 13: Since February 2005 the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) in Nepal has been regulating funds for the National HIV/AIDS Program which involves the National Center for AIDS and STD Control (NCASC), the HIV/AIDS and STI Control Board and non-governmental organizations (NGOs).
The main donor organization (contributing $17.2 million out of $22.6 million) for the five-year program coming to an end in December 2009 is the Department for International Development (DfID) of the United Kingdom. A majority of Nepal´s NGOs working for the prevention and awareness of HIV/AIDS and treatment of HIV positive patients at the grass root level are dependent on this funding. However, the uncertainty of funding commitment by DfID for the coming year leaves the future of several NGOs uncertain.
Sneha Samaj, an NGO that specifically works for HIV positive women, has been heavily dependent on UNDP for the past three years for running its crisis center. “Half our budget comes from UNDP´s program,” informs Samjhana Ghimire, program coordinator at Sneha Samaj.
According to Ghimire, UNDP has asked them to search for funds elsewhere and there is no promise of funds in the future either. “We were told that there were too many NGOs and they couldn´t give funds to every one of them, which is why they withdrew funding for all of us,” adds Rumi Rajbhandari, program officer at the same NGO. “Our crisis center has remained closed for the past three months due to lack of funds.”
Sneha Samaj was established in 2004 to provide financial support and counseling for women living with HIV/AIDS. In fiscal year 2008-2009, the NGO served a total of 132 HIV positive women, 93 percent of them from poor economic backgrounds and 96 percent were the wives of migrant workers.
“Most of our clients come from outside Kathmandu and cannot afford lodgings here, which is what we provide at our crisis center,” says Ghimire. “Shutting down such centers means that several HIV positive people will not be able to come to Kathmandu even when they have access to free treatment.”
Blue Diamond Society (BDS), which also works with HIV/AIDS with a primary focus on men having sex with men (MSM), is not facing immediate problems like Sneha Samaj. Nonetheless, challenges in the future are likely. “We have been given funding by UNDP till the end of 2009 and we have submitted our proposal for next year, but we haven´t received any confirmation over that,” says Salina Tamang, HIV/AIDS program manager at BDS.
BDS has a wide network with 17 centers in several cities including Kathmandu, Chitwan, Bhairahawa and Biratnagar. Almost all their centers receive full monetary aid from DfID through UNDP. “The current global crisis could also be one of the reasons,” says Tamang, who is on the semi-autonomous board of the UNDP National HIV/AIDS Program. “In addition, DfID is also considering giving funds directly to the Ministry of Health instead of managing it through UNDP.”
If BDS gets any funding at all, it will only be short-term and may not even be enough for a year, informs Tamang. NGOs that may get funding will be selected in terms of their past and current achievements and effectiveness.
“DfID has fulfilled its five-year commitment,” stated a DfID official, who did not wish to be named because he was not authorized to speak. “There is still time to think and we have not yet decided.”