The central government on Monday decided to bar the Public Health Foundation of India (PHFI) from accepting foreign funding and came under sharp criticism from a leading medical journal.
“It is worrying that at a time when healthcare in India is most in need, the government has opted to push for a wholly political and nationalistic agenda at the cost of public health, which clearly needs foreign investment to realistically meet the growing burden of non-communicable diseases across the country,” says an editorial in the journal Lancet Oncology. In April, the Union home ministry issued a notification canceling PHFI’s license under the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act, 2010, which is required to receive foreign donations. The foundation used to get donations from various non-governmental organizations, including the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
The home ministry said that the action was taken after a probe established PHFI was diverting foreign funds for purposes other than what is intended for that fund. PHFI was subsequently taken off of the national immunization program by the health ministry, which roped in US-based non-profit outfit John Snow International for the task.
PHFI maintained that certain observations were made by the home ministry on the utilization of funds related to its projects on tobacco, HIV/AIDS and its financial reports. “PHFI is seeking an early resolution of the issue and continuation of the FCRA registration, based on the clarifications provided,” it said.
“This means increasing, not reducing, the availability of funds to help promote public health campaigns that encourage healthy lifestyles, reduce tobacco use, improve cancer registries, and increase the availability of cancer screening,” it adds.