By Mbatjiua Ngavirue WINDHOEK The UNITAID International Drug Purchase Facility is expected to have as much as 300 million euros available next year for developing countries to purchase urgently needed anti-retroviral, anti-malarial and TB drugs. This money is expected to make it possible to treat up to 250 000 children for tuberculosis around the world. This announcement was made at a media briefing by the French Embassy in Windhoek yesterday. UNITAID/IDPF is an innovative funding mechanism to accelerate access to high-quality drugs and diagnostics for HIV/AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis in countries with a high burden of disease. Funding will be provided through a “solidarity levy” on airline tickets in the participating countries, with the proceeds being deposited in special accounts at the World Bank and UNICEF. The programme was initiated by France, Brazil, Chile, Norway and the United Kingdom but 19 other countries have now indicated they will become contributors to the fund. First Counsellor at the French embassy Yann Hwang said the contribution from the levy on airline tickets in France alone is expected to be 200 million euros, with the balance made up by other partner countries. The levy on tickets in France, according to Hwang, is between 1 euro in the economy class and 10 euros in the business class on domestic flights, while on international flights it ranges from ÃƒÆ’Ã†’Ãƒâ€ ‘ÃƒÆ’Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ãƒâ€šÃƒÆ’Ã†’Ãƒâ€šÃƒÆ’’Ã…Â¡Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â¬ÃƒÆ’…Ãƒâ€šÃƒÆ’Ã†”Ã…Â¡ÃƒÆ’Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â¬4 up to ÃƒÆ’Ã†’Ãƒâ€ ‘ÃƒÆ’Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ãƒâ€šÃƒÆ’Ã†’Ãƒâ€šÃƒÆ’’Ã…Â¡Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â¬ÃƒÆ’…Ãƒâ€šÃƒÆ’Ã†”Ã…Â¡ÃƒÆ’Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â¬40 in first class. The UNITAID/IDPF initiative stems from a ministerial conference organised by France in Paris on Innovative Development Financing Mechanisms in February/March this year. The patron of the conference, French President Jacques Chirac then officially announced the launch of the UNITAID/IDPF programme at the opening of the 61st U.N. General Assembly session in New York in September. Namibia and other beneficiary countries of the Global Fund, and other multilateral institutions, will be able to access UNITAID/IDPF funds for buying drugs and other medical products under the programme. Explaining the thinking behind the UNITAID/IDPF programme, the French embassy says six million HIV-infected people are in urgent need of antiretroviral treatment (ARV) in the developing world. “Securing financial resources will also provide developing countries with sustainable funds, which will be an incentive for them to reinforce their commitment to facilitate access to treatment,” they add. Large amounts of funding are required for drugs. There is however no centralised mechanism for drug purchasing – so large differences in price may occur for a given drug between regions in the world. The challenge, the French embassy says, was to facilitate a global access to essential medicines at a low cost. The solution was the international solidarity contribution, which they say is more effective than conventional Official Development Aid (ODA) because it will generate sustainable and predictable funds. This in turn may answer a number of concerns with regard to access to large-scale treatment in the developing world, the French say.