New philanthropy-backed fund to boost frontline healthcare across Africa

The Africa Frontline First Catalytic Fund aims to drive US$100m to community healthcare initiatives in up to 10 countries.

The Global Fund, an innovative financing mechanism targeting HIV, TB, and malaria in low- and middle-income countries, has unveiled a new initiative to raise $100 million for community healthcare in Africa by 2030.

The Africa Frontline First Catalytic Fund (AFF-CF) aims to scale up frontline healthcare at the community level to better equip countries to fight diseases such as Covid-19, HIV, and Ebola and improve social and economic outcomes.

The Skoll Foundation and The Johnson & Johnson Foundation have already committed $25m to the initiative. This has been matched by the Global Fund, which hopes to raise an additional $50m from other philanthropic donors.

Designed in partnership with the Africa Frontline First Initiative, the fund will distribute support to 10 countries, paying for technical assistance, digital tools, access to medicines and supplies, and better integration of community health workers within the wider healthcare system.

It also seeks to ensure that women, who make up the large proportion of community health workers on the continent, are properly paid for their work.

The announcement of the AFF-CF comes ahead of the Global Fund’s next replenishment round, which aims to raise $18bn to fund its next three-year cycle of grants – and amid worsening global rates of HIV, TB, and malaria.

“For the first time in 20 years, many countries have seen HIV, TB and malaria cases worsen and community health workers are at the forefront of fighting these diseases,” explained Peter Sands, executive director of the Global Fund.

“This is a unique moment for leaders to join forces and invest in the people and structures that will fight pandemics, infectious diseases, and other health threats, now and in the future,” he said.

"This is a unique moment for leaders to join forces and invest in the people and structures that will fight pandemics, infectious diseases, and other health threats – now and in the future." 

Peter Sands, executive director, The Global Fund.

Joaquin Duato, CEO of Johnson & Johnson, which has committed $15m to the AFF-CF, said: “Health workers are the cornerstone of care. By training, empowering, and integrating community health workers into existing health systems it’s possible to extend care and reduce the burden of disease for millions of people.” 

And Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Nobel Peace Prize recipient and former President of Liberia, added: “In Liberia and around the world, we have seen the power of community health workers to deliver essential care in rural and remote communities – and to maintain that care during crises like the Ebola epidemic and the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The Africa Frontline First Catalytic Fund is a unique opportunity to invest in those health workers and catalyse real change, creating a healthier and safer world for all,” she said.

Africa Frontline First is a collaborative effort by the Financing Alliance for Health, Last Mile Health, the Community Health Acceleration Partnership, and Community Health Impact Coalition under the championship of President Sirleaf.

The Global Fund was launched in 2002 to support efforts to end HIV, TB and Malaria. Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar, and the United Arab Emirates, have collectively given more than $220m in funding to the initiative.

Currently, 49 of the 57 of Organisation of Islamic Co-operation (OIC) member states across the Middle East and North Africa, sub-Saharan Africa, Asia, Central Asia and Central Europe and the Caribbean are implementing Global Fund supported programmes. - PA