By Asmau Ahmad
The Africa Health Budget Network (AHBN) has announced a grant of $500,000 from the Ford Foundation to strengthen accountability for COVID-19 finances, and vaccines equitable access in eight African countries.
The grant funds are available over a three-year period beginning from April 1, 2022. The eight targeted countries are Cameroon, Kenya, Nigeria, Malawi, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Uganda and Zimbabwe.
“Accountability for COVID-19 finances remain a big challenge, due to inadequate access to public information regarding government’s COVID-19 spending in Africa.
“The CSOs, media and general public need to know about the government intervention plans, coordination and accountability mechanisms, and flows of money to end users and key indicators to measure success of the COVID-19 response plans at country levels” says Dr Aminu Magashi Garba Coordinator of the Africa Health Budget Network.
A statement issued by the AHBN, stated that the project outputs will includes; supporting targeted CSOs in the eight countries to develop their advocacy and accountability action plans for COVID-19 and health security.
“Capacity of CSOs, advocates and media in Africa are enhanced to meaningfully engage, demand and improve accountability and transparency of COVID-19 finances.
“Trained journalists in eight targeted countries to improved visibility of COVID-19 and health security challenges via investigative journalism. Improved country learning/exchange of COVID-19 finances accountability at country and regional levels and Improved partnership and collaboration with regional and international financing institutions to improve COVID-19 finances access to information that support advocacy and accountability,” the statement said.
The AHBN added that the project expected outcomes are; “Governments established biannual publications on COVID-19 finances and spending in the targeted countries. Governments regularly uploaded on its official websites’ information on COVID-19 finances and spending in the targeted countries. Governments developed domestic resources mobilization strategies for COVID-19 and health security and Governments established mechanisms to utilize WHO technology to produce mRNA vaccines in targeted countries to increase equitable access to vaccine.”
AHBN’s Health Economist, Mrs Maimuna Abdullahi said African civil society organizations (CSOs) are not well informed about many of the international resources and financing coming to Africa for COVID-19 response.
She added that the development compromises accountability, transparency and prudent spending of resources.
“Also, at country-level, many CSOs do not have a seat at the table on high-level government committees and taskforce on COVID-19 response, which makes it difficult to engage and hold government to account.
There is also inadequate capacity of country CSOs to analyse international development partners’ financial support including grants and loans to Africa, as well as how to develop advocacy briefs and use such to engage and advocate for prudent spending, accountability and transparency.
“These are some of the issues this grant from Ford Foundation will address amongst others,” Mrs Abdullahi said.
The health economist revealed that the AHBN will convene the Africa Regional Post COVID-19 Accountability Summit aimed at promoting peer learning and exchange and bridging the gaps between advocates, relevant government and intergovernmental health agencies and international and regional financing institutions.
“We will also provide catalytic sub-grants to targeted African CSOs in the eight targeted countries. Grants will be used at country level to develop advocacy and accountability action plans for COVID-19, conducting advocacy meetings and visits to ministries of finance and health to promote accountability and transparency.
“We will also conduct budget analysis for advocacy and development of briefs including infographics, support health journalists to undertake investigative journalism that promotes COVID-19 vaccine access and equitable distribution,” she added.