As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to unravel healthcare systems and economies across the world, The Coca-Cola Company and fourteen other global corporations have urged US Congressional leaders to continue to provide healthcare funding support to sub-Saharan African countries so that the pandemic and its consequences do not result in an increase in deaths from HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria, which are among the top 5 killer diseases on the continent.
The companies, acting on the platform of the Friends of the Global Fund, recently sent a joint letter to the US Senate Majority Leader, Honorable Mitch McConnell; House Speaker, Honorable Nancy Pelosi; and the Senate and the House Minority Leaders, advocating for the COVID supplemental funding legislation to include increased investments to support sub-Saharan healthcare systems and workers.
“In sub-Saharan Africa, COVID-19 threatens fragile health systems and the virus has the potential to infect nearly a quarter of a billion people over the next year… COVID-19 also risks undermining decades of progress against epidemics that kill millions of people every year: AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria”, the companies noted in the letter which was signed by The Coca-Cola Company’s CEO, James Quincey, along with the CEOs of Abbott, Cepheid, Johnson & Johnson, Mylan, Sanofi, Thermo Fisher Scientific, Vestergaard, Zenysis, Aegon-Transamerica, MTV Staying Alive Foundation, Novartis, Takeda Pharmaceutical Company, UPS and ViiV Healthcare.
With over 90 years of extensive presence across Africa through its subsidiaries and bottling partners, The Coca-Cola Company has witnessed the great strides the continent has made and the enormous challenges it continues to grapple with in building effective health systems. Along with its bottling partners and the Coca-Cola Foundation, the company has invested over the years in these efforts and are partners with the Global Fund which leverages US Government funding to scale strategic healthcare interventions in Africa such as Project Last Mile.
Launched in 2009, Project Last Mile models Coca-Cola’s expertise in distribution efficiency and marketing impact to help build capacity and capability in African ministries of health for improved availability of life-saving medicines and demand for health services for millions of people in hard-to-reach parts of Africa.
Working with local Coca-Cola teams, Project Last Mile has supported governments to build effective and resilient healthcare supply chains and systems, including cold chain maintenance for vaccines, adapting its scope to the needs in the ten countries where the project has launched: Mozambique, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Tanzania, South Africa, Eswatini, Nigeria, Lesotho, Uganda and Ghana.
Commenting on the appeal to the US Congress, Bruno Pietracci, President for Coca-Cola Africa and Middle East said: “COVID-19 has underscored the importance of multi-stakeholder interventions such as Project Last Mile in enabling countries to cope with the unimagined pressure on healthcare systems through improved logistics, communication effectiveness and access to hard-to-reach people at the last mile. It is crucial that the global community stands up to the responsibility to enable quick recovery and resilience-building for developing regions such as Africa. That is the only way we can all emerge stronger together from the unprecedented impact of this pandemic”.
The Global Fund, launched in 2002, is a partnership designed to accelerate the end of AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria as epidemics. As an international organization, the Global Fund mobilizes and invests more than $4 billion a year to support programs run by local experts in more than 100 countries, working in partnership with governments, civil society, technical agencies, the private sector and people affected by these diseases. The Global Fund has a strong focus on sub-Saharan Africa where about 72% of its resources were allocated in the 2017-2019 period.