SCORES of Zambian non-governmental organisations (NGOs) yesterday traversed streets and internet cafes of Lusaka preparing project proposals  following reports that co-operating partners were dishing out money to deserving civil society organizations for HIV/AIDS projects.

The American embassy and the U.S President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) unexpectedly announced on Monday that the funding windows were now open for non-governmental organizations, mostly those registered by the Government, to submit proposals  for the  funding programmes relating to influencing policy engagements in democracy  and governance in relation to HIV/AIDS  national response.

The distribution of small grants to local community NGOs to help scale up responses to HIV/AIDS in various communities comes at a time when  lack of investments in HIV/AIDS programmes could keep more than 300,000 people at the risk of death in one year and will cost the Zambian Government billions of Kwacha in the next 10 years.

‘’Despite progress in understanding HIV/AIDS  and its adverse outcomes, there has been very little change associated with the mortality burden,’’ says the embassy’s director of advocacy for peace, justice and governance, Mike Mbewe

There are over 3,500 registered NGOs operating in Zambia, underscoring concerns about the state of Zambia’s advocacy in terms of HIV/AIDS response.

The Government two years ago transferred the registration and monitoring of NGOs from the Registrar of Societies to the Ministry of Community Development and Social Welfare which sparked an uproar when most NGOs felt that the intention of Government was to monitor their source of funding and usage in Zambia.

The review of the NGOs operations emerged from years of tension over modernising reforms of CSO in the country.

This is the first time that the American government’s PEPFAR programme has called for  project proposals focusing on democracy and governance in relation to HIV/AIDS response in Zambia, as the scale and destructive magnitude of the disease continue to outweigh community response in Zambia in particular and Africa as a whole.

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