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AP Reports On Global Fund Malaria Drug Thefts, Issues Correction

The Associated Press on Wednesday published an article reporting that hundreds of millions of dollars of malaria medication had been stolen from the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, but later issued a correction (4/20).

The AP correction stated: “The Associated Press reported erroneously that internal documents said the fund suspected $200 million worth of donated malaria drugs had been stolen in Tanzania. The documents indicate that the fund suspected a theft of undetermined value from a $200 million contract for malaria drugs in Tanzania” (4/20).

The Global Fund responded in a press release, saying it “deplores the serious misrepresentations and factual inaccuracies contained” in the article.

“Several allegations in the original AP story had no basis, and overstated the scale of the problem,” according to the release. “The article wrongly alleged that ‘perhaps even hundreds of millions’ worth of drugs may be stolen; in reality, over the last two and a half years, the Global Fund has funded a total of $98 million in anti-malaria drugs in the 13 countries mentioned in the article. The Global Fund is currently investigating what portion of this amount might have been diverted. In one instance of confirmed drug thefts from Global Fund procured shipments in Togo, the Global Fund is seeking the repayment of $850,000 of which $600,000 have already been refunded” (4/20).

According to PBS’ NewsHour’s blog “The Rundown,” the Global Fund “has been investigating malaria medication shipments stolen and sold for profit for months – in September, a spokesperson told the NewsHour a probe was ongoing in several countries.” However, the blog reports that the scale of theft “is far larger than the tens of thousands of dollars originally suspected” (Miller, 4/20). According to the AP, “the fact that these revelations have come to light at all may be due to stricter self-policing and greater transparency at the Global Fund, compared with other aid organizations.”

As part of the internal investigation, “officials identified 13 countries, mostly in Africa,” where a significant number of “malaria drugs have gone missing,” the AP writes. Global Fund spokesperson Jon Liden “confirmed the fund suspects $2.5 million worth of malaria drugs were stolen from Togo, Tanzania, Sierra Leone, Swaziland and Cambodia, dating mainly from 2009 to 2011, but with some cases going further back. He said investigations are under way to determine how much more was stolen elsewhere,” the AP reports. Liden said, “We take this very seriously and we will do what it takes to protect our investment” (4/20). 

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