Tuesday, May 31, 2005

With Live8, Geldof urges G8 to stamp out poverty

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By Paul Majendie

LONDON - Twenty years after Live Aid, Bob Geldof wants to change the world again, not by fund-raising for famine relief but by staging a concert to pressure world leaders into eradicating African poverty.

Geldof, dubbed "Saint Bob" for organising the 1985 concert to save the starving in Ethiopia, is to announce the line-up on Tuesday for Live8, a July 2 concert designed to influence the G8 group of industrialised nations' summit in Scotland.

"There is more than a chance that the boys and girls with guitars will finally turn the world on its axis," the dishevelled Irish rock star said.

Geldof's powers of persuasion -- his Irish charm is matched only by his penchant for expletives -- have ensured pop fans will be treated to a stellar cast for the concert, expected to be held in London.

The phones have been ringing as incessantly as they did 20 years ago, with Geldof seeking to persuade musicians to take part. Sting accepted, saying Geldof was a man who did not take no for an answer.

The event is expected to feature Irish rockers U2 and former Beatle Paul McCartney, who performed at the 1985 concerts which raised over $100 million for African famine relief.

The Rolling Stones, Eminem and Madonna could also appear and Pink Floyd and The Spice Girls may even re-form for the show.


In 1985, Geldof was shaking his collection bowl as aid agencies raced to save the dying in Ethiopia.

This time he wants to galvanise the world's richest nations into action against African poverty.

Prime Minister Tony Blair has campaigned to help Africa during Britain's presidency of the G8 this year and will host G8 leaders at a summit in Gleneagles in Scotland in July.

But campaigners fear discord between G8 nations on debt reduction and aid spending plans, combined with reluctance in Washington, will wreck Blair's ambitions.

They warn African schools and hospitals could receive no new money from the lavish summit, which could cost as much as 100 million pounds ($180 million) to stage.

"We are really concerned that we're a long, long way away from any kind of breakthrough on tackling poverty in Africa," said Oxfam policy adviser Max Lawson. (Additional reporting by Jeremy Lovell and Madeline Chambers)

Thursday, May 26, 2005

Opera star promotes UN's poverty fight

Ireland On Line

World-renowned opera singer Luciano Pavarotti is set to use his concert in Dublin today to promote an international commitment to free people from extreme poverty.

During the concerts today and Saturday, the tenor – a UN Messenger of Peace - will screen public service announcements highlighting the United Nations’ Millennium Development Goals.

Eight goals were laid out in the Millennium Declaration, which promised to free men, women and children from extreme poverty and committed rich and poor nations to working together to achieve them.

The declaration was signed at the UN Millennium Summit in 2000 by 189 heads of state, who promised to work together to make a better world by 2015.

The announcements – part of the UN’s “only with your voice” campaign – will be made at Pavarotti’s last Irish concerts at the Point Theatre.

The singer has offered to show UN public service announcements and promotional videos during his worldwide farewell tour of more than 40 concerts held this year and in 2006, before he retires.

Eveline Herfkins, the UN Secretary General’s executive co-ordinator for the Millennium Campaign said: “We are the first generation that can end poverty.

“Today the world has the money, the know-how and the plan.

“But we are falling behind, as in many countries there is not enough political will to make this into a reality.

“So it is of great importance that people in the world add their “voices against poverty” to make sure that this important message is multiplied and heard.

“This great opportunity given by Pavarotti, during his series of concerts, to bring this to his audiences and add his great voice to this great cause, is of great importance to reach many people around the world,” she said.

Pavarotti was made a Messenger of Peace by UN Secretary General Kofi Annan in 1998 in recognition of his work to promote UN causes and his contribution to humanitarian projects.

Bob Geldof confirms plans for star-studded concert against poverty

The National Post

LONDON - Live Aid founders Bob Geldof and Midge Ure said Thursday they were planning a star-studded concert to fight poverty in Africa - but insisted it wouldn't be Live Aid Mark 2.

Rumours have swirled for weeks that a Live Aid sequel will be held in London's Hyde Park in early July, days before leaders of the world's richest nations meet for a G8 summit in Gleneagles, Scotland. Madonna, U2, Paul McCartney and a reunited Spice Girls have all been mentioned in the possible lineup.

"I can say there's never going to be a Live Aid II but there's something brewing," Ure said Thursday at the Ivor Novello songwriting awards ceremony in London.

"It's big. And it's as petrifying as the buildup to Live Aid, if not more so. We'll have all the biggest names we can find. But it's not just about big names, it's about making a point."

Geldof and Ure received a Novello award for last year's remake of their 1984 charity single Do They Know It's Christmas? That song and the 1985 Live Aid concerts in London and the United States raised millions for Ethiopian famine victims.

Geldof has continued to campaign against poverty in Africa, and British Prime Minister Tony Blair has made aid to the continent one of the key themes for Britain's leadership of the G8 this year.

"Once more into the breach," Geldof said. "What started 20 years ago is coming to a political point in a few weeks.

"There's more than a chance that the boys and girls with guitars will finally get to turn the world on its axis and I need you there with us."

While details remain under wraps, one star confirmed Thursday he would be participating.

"Bob called me up and said I was doing it," Sting said at the Novello awards. "He doesn't ask you, he tells you," he said Thursday.

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

EU to Boost Poverty Aid

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The European Union has agreed to boost its aid to the developing world over the next five years, reinforcing Europe's role as a leading donor.

At a meeting of EU ministers in Brussels, the 25-nation bloc agreed to bring EU aid from €46b ($A76.4b) in 2006 to €66b in 2010.

"I consider this to be an essential development, an extremely important advance in international solidarity," said Luxembourg development minister Jean-Louis Schiltz, whose country currently holds the EU's presidency.

“Europe has shown today that international solidarity is not an empty phrase."

The EU's 15 older, and richest, member states are to make up the bulk of the effort to reach the objective with a commitment to raise development aid to 0.51 percent of GDP in 2010.

The other 10 countries that joined the EU in May 2004, agreed to try to reach a target of 0.17 percent of GDP in 2010.

While signing on to the deal, Germany, Italy and Portugal also stressed they were having deep financial problems trying to meet EU deficit limits, an EU source said.

EU members were looking to reach an agreement on development aid targets in preparation for a meeting at the United Nations in New York on September 14-16.

EU development commissioner Louis Michel said the deal "positions the European Union as the veritable global leader in development policy ahead of the high level meeting in New York."

The targets are part of the EU's contribution to meeting the millennium development goals, which were adopted by the international community in 2000 and relaunched by UN Secretary General Kofi Annan in March.

Welcoming the agreement as a "breakthrough", British development secretary Hilary Benn said "This is a landmark in international efforts to make faster progress towards the millennium development goals."

Poverty deal is 'major breakthrough'

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HILARY Benn, the International Development Secretary, yesterday hailed a new European deal on development aid as a "major breakthrough" in the fight against world poverty.

The richest 15 EU member states agreed in Brussels to set a new spending goal - spending at least 0.51 per cent of their national wealth on the developing world by 2010.

The newest ten member states, most of them relatively poor, agreed a parallel target of 0.17 per cent.

The new development aid deal would virtually double the EU's combined aid effort, from £22.4 billion a year last year to £44.3 billion in 2010.

Both goals, approved by Mr Benn and fellow EU development ministers, are designed to revive momentum towards achieving a United Nations target of spending 0.7 per cent of national wealth on development by 2015.

"This is a landmark in international efforts to make faster progress towards the millennium development goals," said Mr Benn.

"The EU provides over half of all global assistance. Today's agreement shows that Europe has put itself at the forefront of efforts to reduce global poverty. I very much hope that other donors will follow Europe's lead as soon as possible."

Gordon Brown, the Chancellor, welcomed the EU agreement. "I do believe we have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to make a huge difference," said Mr Brown.

"We are raising an extra $40 billion, and if all the richest countries that are meeting in Gleneagles in a few weeks' time can agree on a package, that will mean debt relief, aid, trade justice.

"I praise the European countries, all 25 of them, which deserve support from the rest of the world."

Jonathan Glennie, a senior policy officer for Christian Aid, said the organisation also welcomed the new money. "We are very excited about the announcement. We think it is great news," he said.

"The governments of Europe have responded to clear public pressure on this and the public have said we need to be more generous to poor countries.

"We congratulate campaigners but it is very important to remember that this is a first step towards making 2005 a year we can all really remember."

Christian Aid was calling for more and better aid, debt cancellation and trade justice, he added.

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Economic reforms needed to alleviate poverty: PM

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BAGRU (RAJASTHAN): Declaring that eradication of poverty was the primary goal of his government, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh today said economic reforms needed to be accelerated and strengthened to achieve this goal.

Mr Singh said he was confident that during the next four to five years, India would attain its rightful place in the world and would have the best infrastructure. He was addressing a public meeting here, about 27 km from Jaipur, after dedicating to the nation the 90 km-long six-lane Jaipur-Kishengarh expressway, part of the Golden Quadrilateral project.

“Eradication of poverty is our primary goal. It can be possible only if production in both agriculture and industries increases rapidly”, he said adding the government had to create new avenues in this regard.

“If the country is to be rid of poverty and unemployment, economic reforms have to be strengthened and accelerated”, he said. To usher in development in the country, all villages and towns needed to be provided with the best infrastructure, including roads, healthcare, education and power, the prime minister said.

Noting that the wave of economic reforms started in ’91 when he was the finance minister, Mr Singh said he was happy that there was consensus among all political parties on carrying this forward. He said all parties had realised that economic reforms had to be strengthened and unemployment and poverty had to be eradicated

He expressed confidence that poverty would be uprooted within the next five years through various schemes launched by his government, particularly for scheduled caste and scheduled tribes.

He refereed to the ambitious Bharat Nirman project announced last week for development of rural areas. Emphasising on developing a new thinking, the prime minister said that the “chalta hai” (casual) attitude has to be changed to usher in speedy economic reforms. Development of good roads, ports, airports, railway network were essential for economic progress, he said.

Talking about the highway project, he said that the involvement of public and private partnership for the first time in any such scheme was a dream accomplished. More such partnerships were required for establishing a network of quality roads, he added. Economic reforms when launched, were opposed initially but subsequently everyone realised its importance for the progress of the country, the prime minister said.

New president vows to fight poverty

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By Stephanie Hoo

ULAN BATOR, Mongolia – A British-educated literature scholar from Mongolia’s formerly Communist ruling party has been elected president, and he promised Monday to work with his bitter rivals and fight widespread poverty in this one-time Soviet satellite.

Nambariin Enkhbayar of the Mongolian People’s Revolutionary Party said his first priority would be creating jobs.

“This may be the only way to fight poverty and bring development to this country,” he said.

The Mongolian People’s Revolutionary Party ruled the country with an iron fist before multiparty democracy was introduced in 1990. It has since been voted out and back into power, and many Mongolians who voted for the party Sunday said they were nostalgic for communist rule when Soviet aid kept the economy afloat.

Today’s Mongolia can’t look to Russia for help, but it can lower taxes on small businesses, increase job training, improve the banking system so entrepreneurs can get loans, and ease regulations on foreign firms, the 46-year-old Enkhbayar said.

In a country where more than a third of people can’t afford enough food to eat, Enkhbayar’s three opponents accused the Mongolian People’s Revolutionary Party-dominated government of allowing foreign mining firms to keep too much of the profits they earn from their interests in Mongolia.

Friday, May 20, 2005

Poverty plea to G8 leaders

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With the G8 Summit at Gleneagles just weeks away, Perth campaigners have urged the world’s most powerful leaders to Make Poverty History, writes Dave Lord.

Representatives from a range of charities, churches and political parties converged on the Fair City to spell out their message for Blair, Bush and friends.

“Make Poverty History is a coalition of over 400 different organisations calling for trade justice, debt cancellation and aid for the world poorest countries,” explained local campaigner and group convenor Marjorie Clark.
“A child dies due to poverty every three seconds — it is imperative that those with power do something to change this statistic.”

On Saturday July 2 more than 100,000 campaigners from all over the UK will be in Edinburgh for the Make Poverty History rally.

Perth organisations — including Christian Aid, Save the Children, the World Development Movement and Oxfam — are set for the event and hope it will make those inside Gleneagles sit up and take notice.

“We expect this to be both a safe and inspiring event, with the full co-operation of the local police and city council,” said Marjorie.

On the day itself people wearing white will form a huge human band around the centre of Edinburgh.

They will also tie messages written on white cloth to giant Make Poverty History letters which will then be transported to Gleneagles.

“We are looking forward to a family friendly day with a serious message,” Marjorie continued.

“It will be eight hours out of our lives but it could change eight minds and transform 800 million lives.”

Perth politicians Pete Wishart MP and Roseanna Cunningham MSP joined Perth campaigners in their call for debt cancellation and improved aid.

Ms Cunningham said, “These are the people who have the power to take the decisions that really can make poverty history.

“Decisions taken in Perthshire in July will have a direct impact on the ability of countries to deal with the problems they face.”

Ms Cunningham called for locals to unite behind the aims of Make Poverty History.

Meanwhile, Mr Wishart commented, “Every single day 30,000 children are dying as a result of extreme poverty.

“This year we have the resources, knowledge and opportunity to end this shameful situation and the G8 Summit is the ideal setting for reinforcing our campaign.

“It is essential world leaders are made to take responsibility in ensuring the eradication of world poverty,” the MP for Perth and North Perthshire continued.

“I know that as the G8 Summit comes nearer the campaign will be to the fore of the political agenda.”

For further information about the rally and details of the Perth bus, call 01738 643982.

There will also be a public meeting about Make Poverty History at Brennan’s Bar, St John’s Street, Perth, on Tuesday May 24 at 7.30 pm.

Thursday, May 19, 2005

World Bank found to be failing poor

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by Julie Ziegler

The World Bank, the largest financier of projects in developing nations, is said to be failing in its mission to reduce poverty in the poorest countries by paying too little attention to boosting economic growth.

In the past 15 years, an internal audit found, the bank put too much emphasis on social development and cut spending on bridges, dams, pipelines and other projects that have a more dramatic impact on economic growth.

The World Bank's model to fight poverty in the poorest of nations "has, in practice, paid insufficient attention to fighting growth,'' the 115-page report said. "Without growth, no sustainable poverty reduction is likely.''

World Bank president James Wolfensohn, who is retiring at the end of May, cut by 40 percent financing for infrastructure projects since 1995 and shifted money to programs focused on climate change and faith-based initiatives, annual reports show.

While infrastructure spending has begun to rise in the past 18 months, some economists say World Bank president-elect Paul Wolfowitz will still scale back some of Wolfensohn's projects and overhaul the bank's US$20 billion (HK$156 billion) annual lending operation.

"Somehow in the last few years it became kind of politically incorrect to talk about growth in the bank, and one could only talk about poverty reduction,'' New York University professor and former World Bank economist William Easterly said. Only one-third of the developing economies have expanded more than 2 percent per capita in the past decade, the audit found.

In roughly the same period, the number of people living on less than US$1 a day increased in more than 40 of 100 developing countries for which there is data.

Wolfowitz is US President George W Bush's hand-picked nominee to succeed Wolfensohn. Since 2001, the Bush administration has sought to reduce what it calls mission creep and put the bank focus on infrastructure projects. It would also like the bank to be more transparent when providing assistance and to justify future aid with past results.

While improving health and education is important, Deputy Assistant US Treasury Secretary Tony Fratto said, "creating growth through the private sector is the only way to permanently raise living standards.''

A one percent increase in per capita income reduces the proportion of people living on less than US$1 a day by an average of 2 percent, the report said.

Excluding China, the percentage of people living on less than US$1 a day decreased to 23 percent in 2001 from 32 percent in 1980, though the absolute number rose to 880 million from 850 million because of population growth.

Most of the gains came in Eastern Europe, East Asia and India. In contrast, the percentage of people living in poverty in sub-Saharan Africa increased in both percentage and absolute terms.

The report acknowledges that the World Bank does not bear sole responsibility for poor growth in regions such as sub-Saharan Africa and places where graft is blamed for impeding growth.

"In the World Bank's defense, even an outspoken critic of the bank can recognize that many things beyond its control determine poverty and growth in poor countries,'' said Adam Lerrick, an economist at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh and a member of a 2000 congressional panel that evaluated World Bank policies. "However, no one outside the bank, and few people inside, know how effective the bank is,'' Lerrick said.

The bank should develop better ways to determine whether aid is actually being used for its intended purpose, the report said.

Jim Adams, the bank's vice-president for operational policy and country services, said a separate World Bank report finds that the success rate of its projects has increased from 15 percent in 1993 to 63 percent today.

Adams said the bank has also recognized the need to increase spending on bridges, dams, ports and roads and will outlay US$1 billion more on those projects this year.

Monks and nuns take their fight against poverty to Westminster

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by Tania Branigan

Even New Labour MPs may know enough of Marx to recall that he described religion as the opium of the people.

If so, they were in for a shock yesterday. The 1,000 monks, nuns and friars who descended on Westminster were more of an adrenaline shot for the body politic.

The brothers and sisters from Anglican and Roman Catholic orders were lobbying their MPs - in humble but determined manner - to support the Make Poverty History campaign.

Usually security officers put out crash barriers when a mass delegation of activists heads for parliament. Yesterday the fluorescent-jacketed staff were busy loading them back on to lorries as the campaigners streamed towards the Commons.
The visit, organised by the Catholic aid agency Cafod, came as Jack Straw used a speech in Washington to urge the US to support British plans to alleviate Africa's plight.

The event could easily have been dominated by empty piety and self-righteousness.

But parliamentarians were swiftly deflated by sharp questions and sharper facts: a woman dies in childbirth every minute; 150 million children are malnourished; 1.1 billion people have no safe water.

"We must not be satisfied with answers that are words, words and more words," Sister Pat Robb - who initiated the visit - had warned her fellow campaigners.

"The fact that so many people in this world live in abject poverty is a scandal. The fact that it's so often caused by us in the west, as we use limited natural resources and labour to maintain our unsustainable lifestyle, is totally unacceptable."

In his brown, cowled habit, girded by a simple rope belt, Brother Michael O'Kane would not have looked out of place in Westminster Hall when it was first built in the 11th century.

But while the Franciscan friar's clothing might reinforce stereotypes of unworldly churchmen, he explained that he does not always wear the robe; it tends to be tricky when nursing, or playing football with refugee children.

These campaigners have worked with Aids victims, street sleepers, malnourished families and drug addicts, in inner cities here and slums around the world.

Yesterday's lobbying was, to them, the logical development of this practical service. "Poverty is more than looking at skinny babies and helping to feed people, " said Sister Ursula Sharpe.

"It is bigger than that: it's about trade and debt."

Sister Pat, of the Congregation of Jesus, had short shrift for anyone who believed that religion and politics did not mix.

"Jesus was political," she said tartly. "He turned the moneylenders out of the temple."

Nor did she accept that the Catholic church might have contributed to Africa's problems.

"People always want to bring up Aids and condoms, but people go on the streets because they haven't got food. Let's get to the root of the problem: removing poverty," she said.

Whether or not one agrees, it is hard to argue with the fact that the church provides 40% of healthcare in some developing countries.

Christianity and Marxism have rarely been on friendly terms, but the activists might concede the philosopher was half right about religion. He also dubbed it "the heart of a heartless world".

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Broken region of Darfur facing 'inevitable' famine

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By Rick Hampson,

DELEIJ, Sudan — Once, this was the season when Khartoma Ibrahim prayed for the rains to come. She was a farmer then, before the troubles here in Darfur changed everything, even her prayers.

The rains should come any day now, but this year Ibrahim, 35, has no fields to plant. She, her husband and their six children languish in a refugee camp whose 20,000 residents survive almost entirely on international food aid — aid that will be difficult to deliver once the seasonal rains turn West Darfur's dirt roads into quagmires.

And so, against every instinct, she asks that the rains hold off, inshallah— God willing.

The transformation of rain from blessing to curse illustrates how much life has changed since civil war broke out two years ago, destroying hundreds of farming villages, killing tens of thousands of people, and driving a third of Darfuris into camps like the one here. Darfur, a region usually self-sufficient even in the worst of times, can no longer feed itself. Because of the fighting, last year's harvest was ruined, much of this year's seed destroyed and more than half the farm livestock slaughtered, stolen or run off.

Food prices have doubled, immigrants' remittances have been cut off, and the demand for day labor and homemade handicrafts has collapsed. And now the region enters the annual hungry season —gafaf, they call it — when food from the last harvest runs low and daily meals drop from three to two to one.

It all means that Darfur, so benighted that U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan likened it to "hell on earth," faces another curse: famine. A Tufts University study released earlier this year says that because of problems unprecedented even in Darfur's tortured history, "regionwide famine appears inevitable."

If so, the international community — already struggling to reach the 2.6 million of Darfur's 6 million people who need help — may have to feed and shelter even more. And this effort, second only to the tsunami relief operation in South Asia, promises to stretch on for years, until some way is found to put Darfur back together again.

The hunger already is doing its job. Although the exact death toll in Darfur is a matter of intense debate, all agree that violence is no longer the primary killer.

"People are starving and no one is reporting it, because technically they are not starving," says Bir Chandra Mandal, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Program emergency director in South Darfur. They die from TB (tuberculosis) or malaria or diarrhea, their immune systems weakened by malnutrition. He calls it an "invisible famine."

Famine can kill people, and it can kill their way of life. This season, in Darfur, it threatens to kill both.

'Devils on horseback'

Darfur may not be the world's worst humanitarian crisis; there are more dead in war-torn Congo, there's greater anarchy in Somalia. But a special poignancy surrounds the plight of a people whose government has armed and empowered their attackers.

Darfur, which means "domain of the Fur tribe," was independent for most of its history; the sultan exchanged gifts with Napoleon when the latter invaded Egypt in 1798. Darfur was forced to become part of Sudan only in the 1920s, under British colonial rule.

Some of its 90-odd tribes, particularly the Arab ones, were nomadic herders. Others, mostly non-Arabs of African stock, were sedentary farmers. Although they competed for land, they also cooperated; nomads were allowed to use farmland for grazing at certain times of year, and their cattle and camels would help clear the fields by eating old sorghum stalks, and fertilize them, to boot.

Despite their long rivalry, members of the two groups — Arab and non-Arab (or African) — are very similar. Both are black, speak Arabic and practice Islam. They also share customs for resolving disputes over land, water and livestock.

But a quarter century of drought strained relations. With less land on which to graze, herders increasingly encroached on farms. The farmers, meanwhile, became distressed with what they claimed to be the indifference of the Arab-dominated government in Khartoum to Darfur's basic needs, such as education and economic development.

The non-Arabs formed an independence movement. In 2003, these rebel forces began attacking government installations, including the airport in North Darfur. The government, already locked in another war with rebels in southern Sudan, mobilized and armed members of the nomadic Arab tribes, who attacked the African farm villages from which the rebels sometimes drew support.

The farmers called the raiders Janjaweed, "devils on horseback."

The attack on Khartoma Ibrahim's village was typical: One morning in January 2004, gunmen swept in on horses, camels and in four-wheel drive vehicles, shooting at anything that moved. They torched homes and seed bins. They killed donkeys and dumped them into the well. They chased down women and girls and raped them.

Ibrahim's family escaped, although some of the older children ran off in opposite directions and only reunited in Deleij days later. Some, she says, arrived without their shoes. Sixteen months later, she's still shaken: "They took our animals. They took our property. They killed our relatives." She says she lost her father and a nephew.

Question of genocide

The pattern was repeated across Darfur, sometimes with air or logistical support from government forces.

Last September, U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell said there had been genocide in Darfur in which the Janjaweed and the Sudanese government were complicit. A U.N. report cited evidence of "crimes against humanity" and made a confidential list of 51 suspects that has been referred to the International Criminal Court in The Hague.

Sudanese officials say they're willing to discuss Darfuri grievances. First Vice President Ali Osman Taha, often described as the government's most powerful official, said in a speech earlier this month that "the only solution to the problem in Darfur is through peace and negotiations. We say to those who are carrying arms amongst us now, and to the world: Our hands are outstretched to you, our hearts are open to you. We don't want war anymore."

Darfur is less violent than a year ago. The government hasn't launched an offensive against the rebels in months. Last week, the rebels promised to observe a cease-fire. Janjaweed attacks are fewer. Banditry is growing, but bandits have always plagued Darfur.

An agreement that ended Sudan's 20-year civil war in the south has inspired hope that the former rebels who will join a new national coalition government this summer will insist on a negotiated settlement in Darfur, as well.

The African Union, which has about 2,400 military personnel and 240 civilian police trying to help restore peace in Darfur, last month agreed to increase the force to 6,171 soldiers and 1,560 police by the end of September.

Food now may be a bigger problem than violence. Last spring, some farmers risked staying in the countryside to plant crops such as sorghum, ground nut and sesame. But danger prevented many from returning to harvest. The crops were stolen, eaten by nomads' livestock or left to rot. As a result, the harvest was reduced by 60%.

This year, most experts expect a smaller harvest. Darfur's roads are still so unsafe that a farmer would have trouble getting a crop to market. "Under those conditions, I'd only plant what I could eat myself," says Arif Hussain, head of the World Food Program's Vulnerability Analysis and Mapping unit.

That leaves international assistance, which last month fed about 1.7 million Darfuris. But Darfur's fragile food pipeline could be cut by a number of factors, especially for hundreds of thousands living outside the camps and towns served by aid agencies — the people who are most likely to die.

•Rain: In the spring Darfur's dry riverbeds become torrents, its roads turn into streams. A drive that usually takes four hours might take two days. So food trucks must reach Darfur before the rains. The World Food Program says it has pre-positioned enough food; if not, it will have to rely on costly airlifts that would compound its financial problems. Keith McKenzie, UNICEF's special representative for Darfur, says: "The food pipeline is in a terrible situation."

•Security: The rebels, the Janjaweed and the bandits remain armed and at large, posing a threat to the aid effort in general and the food pipeline in particular. WFP trucks repeatedly have been hijacked (11 are still missing) and their drivers beaten or kidnapped. Two drivers were killed May 8 in separate incidents east of Nyala, the capital of South Darfur. In March, banditry in West Darfur forced the United Nations to withdraw all personnel to the state capital of El Geneina at a time when WFP was trying to pre-position 25,000 tons of food. If violence forces humanitarian agencies to pull out, deaths could rise to 100,000 a month, according to Jan Egeland, head of the U.N. office for humanitarian affairs.

•Donor fatigue: Until the United States made an emergency donation of 15.4 metric tons of non-cereals (such as vegetable oil), WFP was about to cut rations this month. The food agency says its Darfur operation is "severely under-funded" and has received only $281 million (84% from the United States) of the $467 million it needs for 2005. But as many as 3.25 million Darfuris may need to be fed this summer — twice the current number — as the rains begin and Darfuris' food stores run out.

"How many times can the international community bail a country out?" asks Adam Koons of Save the Children USA.

Add to that the other relief programs around the world that are draining resources — and also failing to meet their goals. The United Nations reported Monday that only $2.5 billion of the $6.5 billion pledged for tsunami relief in South Asia had been received.

In Darfur, even if there is not mass starvation, famine might mean something just as bad: the consignment of some of Africa's most self-reliant people to the global bread line.

Independence Celebrations Under Anti-Poverty Banner

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Mozambique's Minister of Women's Affairs and Social Welfare, Virgilia Matabele, declared on Wednesday that the government wants all citizens to be involved in the celebrations of the 30th anniversary of the country's independence "so that we will have dignified commemorations, expressing our Mozambican identity without any distinction of race, sex, religious belief, political affiliation or any other form of discrimination".

She was speaking at a meeting with organisations that work on issues of gender and social welfare, called to exchange ideas about how to celebrate the date. This was one of a series of meetings that government members are holding with those civil society bodies that work in the areas covered by their portfolios. For Matabele, these commemorations were an unequalled opportunity "to reflect upon our post-independence achievements in favour of Mozambican citizenship and identity".

She said that the celebrations will be launched officially on 21 May, at Nangade, on the border with Tanzania. A torch will be carried on a march from the far north of the country to the south, under the theme "From the Rovuma to the Maputo, together in the Struggle against Poverty". (The Rovuma and the Maputo are the rivers marking the northern and southern boundaries of the country.) The march will terminate in Independence Square in Maputo City, where the celebrations will culminate on the anniversary itself, 25 June.

Matabele said the government hopes, through these commemorations, to reaffirm the historic importance of the date, to promote the values of citizenship, to contribute to the education of new generations in patriotic values, and to stress the importance of involving the entire population in the fight against poverty.

She called on her audience to involve themselves in work to make this date a moment of joy, of togetherness, and of reflection on what has been done over the past 30 years.

Poverty Grows in Caribbean

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Bridgetown, Poverty level in the Caribbean has reached 39 percent, according to a report that is urging regional governments to reshuffle their strategies to alleviate poverty.

The Barbados-based Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) issued the report ahead of the financial institution´s annual Board of Governor´s meeting in Guyana later this week, the Caribbean Media Corporation (CMC) reported.

The CDB said in the report entitled "Poverty People and Potential" that poverty levels vary between 17 and 39 percent among its member countries.

CDB President Professor Compton Borne notes that this is a cause for concern, and said the poverty rates showed that there was not only inadequate economic strategy, but there is also a greater need for stronger policy to target poverty reduction.

The report indicates that poverty is higher in conditions where the poor do not have access to the benefits of growth and lack access to social services including essential infrastructure, income and employment.

Besides, natural hazards including hurricanes and volcanic activity are also creating further instability, the report said.

The CDB said there are many challenges in the fight against poverty, but it suggests that the region should focus on addressing the redistribution of resources to the most vulnerable, to ensure greater social and economic balance.

African poverty has doubled in 20 years

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by Vicki Robinson

An new report has revealed that poverty in sub-Saharan Africa has doubled over the past 20 years, while in East Asia it has fallen by half.

Poverty, Inequality and Labour Markets in Africa: A Descriptive Overview was released this week by the University of Cape Town’s Development Policy Research Unit.

The report focuses on the two decades since 1981.

Development economist Haroon Bhorat, author of the report, says poverty in the sub-Saharan region has worsened to such an extent that it needs to be defined in terms of the “ultra-poor” -- people living on less than half of the World Bank’s $1-a-day poverty line.

He writes: “The high incidence of poverty according to the $1-a-day line is now well known for sub--Saharan Africa. [The report suggests] this needs to be overlayed with a key feature of the continent’s welfare challenge: the presence of the ultra-poor in sub-Saharan Africa distinguishes it very starkly from the poor in the rest of the developing world.”

In the past 20 years the number of poor people living in sub--Saharan Africa has almost doubled, from 164-million to 316-million, the report notes.

In comparison, South Asia -- including Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam -- has reduced its poverty levels at an annualised rate of 2% to 3%. East Asia, including China, has halved its poverty in the past decade. “Even with China excluded, the performance has been exceptional,” says Bhorat.

On average, the poor in sub--Saharan Africa earn a fifth of the $1-a-day that would keep them above the poverty line, according to the research. Forty-six percent of the region’s people survive on $1 a day, 21% on $0,50 a day and 6% on $0,25 a day. Only 17% earn above the -poverty line.

Most worrying, however, is Bhorat’s analysis that “both the level and nature of economic growth in sub-Saharan Africa are not conducive to poverty reduction. The region’s growth path is clearly not as pro-poor as that found, for example, in East Asia and the Pacific.”

Bhorat’s report, which he has bolstered with his own research, is the most comprehensive on indigence in the region and “cuts to the nub of the numbers”, he says.

“Over a 20-year period, largely through the 1990s, sub-Saharan Africa has been unable to significantly alter the proportion of individuals in the region who are living and earning below $1,03 per day, which lies in stark contrast to many other regions of the developing world,” says the report.

Apart from inadequate growth rates in sub-Saharan Africa, the governments in the region are not effectively translating this growth into poverty alleviation, says Bhorat. While a 1% increase in economic growth resulted in a 1,47% reduction in poverty in 1981, this measure slipped to 1,28% in 2001.

The research also shows that in the 20-year period since 1980 the region’s labour force has been the third-fastest growing in the world, at 2,6% per year. This is above the world average of 1,8%. The Middle East and North Africa recorded the highest labour growth at 3%. Latin America and the Caribbean were second, with 2,7%.

“In a continent where the growth in mean incomes has been at best tepid, the likelihood of significant reductions in absolute and relative poverty remains an even harder objective,” says Bhorat.

A copy of the report is available from the Development Policy Research Unit at the University of Cape Town.

Nuns Team Up in Parliament Poverty Protest

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Two nuns from Wiltshire will join up with around 1,000 members of religious orders and take part in a protest at Parliament today when they will be calling on MPs to “Make Poverty History”.

Sister Concepta from St Teresa’s Convent in Corsham and Sister Mary from St Michael’s Convent in Swindon are taking part in the special event organised by the Catholic Agency for Overseas Development (CAFOD).

Sister Concepta said: ”This year is an unprecedented opportunity to end the needless poverty and hunger, and the human despair this brings. Many of us have worked in developing countries and seen the suffering of our brothers and sisters.

“The Gospels demand we take action against poverty. We are travelling to London to speak out on behalf of the 1.3 billion people worldwide living on less than a dollar a day. We will not stand by and let our politicians get away with this any longer.”

The event will be the first time religious orders have come together for a mass lobby of Parliament. Their message “to Make Poverty History” will be the first one heard by the newly elected Parliament as MPs return to work after the General Election.

CAFOD is a leading member of the Make Poverty History campaign, a coalition of 400 hundred British organisations calling for trade justice, debt cancellation and more and better aid.

CAFOD director Chris Bain said: “The numbers of religious men and women travelling from around the UK to make a stand for Make Poverty History is humbling. They are in a unique position to highlight the moral imperative of rich governments to make poverty history through trade justice, debt cancellation and more effective aid.

“Already nearly six million people have died of poverty this year and 30,000 children are dying every day. This year we can make a difference.”

Carmelites, Dominicans, Benedictines and Jesuits are just a few of the Orders who will form a procession from the Methodist Central Hall to the Houses of Parliament.

They have special access to the Great Hall to meet their individual MPs. The event will close with a service at St Margaret’s Church, Westminster Abbey.

Make Poverty History Campaign

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On Monday May 16 in the Scottish Parliament, Bob Geldof condemned the world's wealthiest nations as a "complete and utter disgrace" for going back on their promises. The Make Poverty History campaign is gathering pace ahead of the G8 summit.

The statistics tell a shocking story. Nearly half the world's population lives in poverty. Thirty thousand children die every day because they are poor and average life expectancy in Africa is getting shorter, not longer. Clearly the G8 has a lot of work to do.

At the Gleneagles summit in July, the leaders of the world's richest countries will promise to reduce poverty, debt and disease. But there are many who are saying we have heard it all before. They are part of a growing campaign to put pressure on the politicians to do more than just talk.

Make Poverty History has brought together over 400 organisations and enlisted the help of an array of celebrities who've made trade justice and debt relief ultra hip. The campaign will culminate in a mass rally in Edinburgh just before the summit.

Mary Cullen from Make Poverty History said: "Poverty is in a sense man made, and so we make these rule, we can unmake the rules, we can change it so we do believe it is possible as Nelson Mandela said to make poverty history along with apartheid and along with slavery."

But will celebrities and demos really make a difference? Charlotte Ebba is an asylum seeker from the Ivory Coast living in Glasgow. She does not think the campaign will change the way the West treats Africa.

She said: "If they want to make poverty history, they can do it by giving the resources, doing fair trades, let African people decide about how and where to send the resources."

Scottish entrepreneur Tom Hunter was initially sceptical too but he now believes the campaign could succeed. He said: "All it needs is the will. If this was happening in Scotland, you know, 30,000 people a day - it's half of Ayr today, half of Kilmarnock tomorrow. If these things were happening in our backyard, our politicians would do something about it today."

The campaign's white wristbands have become a bit of a fashion statement for young people, but the serious message does seem to have got through. The organisers expect upwards of 100,000 people will go on the march, many of them won't have demonstrated before. They hope the strength of feeling will make the politicians take notice.

Religious Leaders Focus On Social Injustice

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Sarajevo - Fighting global poverty and injustice are common goals for the world's Christians and Muslims, and are deeply rooted in the traditions of both faiths. This was the conclusion of a three day inter-faith seminar in Bosnian capital Sarajevo that aimed to dialogue between the world's two main religions, ending on Wednesday. The latest in the "Building Bridges” cycle of seminars, it brought together scholars and religious leaders from 20 Muslim and Christian countries.

The theme of the seminar - chaired by Britain's highest churchman, the Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams - was "Christians, Muslims and the Common Good". It addressed the question of how to combat the problems of poverty and injustice, offering ideas on the role religion could play in solving these. It was hosted by the Grand Mufti of Bosnia, Mustafa Ceric, by Serbian religious leader His Grace Metropolitan Nicolas of Dabro Bosnia, and the Archbishop of Sarajevo, Cardinal Vinko Puljic.

“We know where the roots of poverty lie,” Williams told the meeting. In his view, not only atheism, but also “anxious and greedy spirits” and “privations imposed by the greed of others” were to blame for poverty.

Williams said that both Christianity and Islam “have a long tradition of commending alms giving, the practice of simple instinctive generosity to the poor”. But the world should, in his words, go far beyond that and religious leaders should play an active role in it, warning that “poverty is not a word with a single definition”.

“On the international stage, we need more open and sophisticated consultation between Christian and Muslim teachers on the ethical principles of investment and development,” said Williams.

The world should make a distinction between “free trade” and “fair trade”. That would in itself be a step forward, for wealth was not just “material abundance for a certain person, but the liberty to make and sustain a stable, dependable environment for human growth,” Williams pointed out.

Williams - summing up the views of the seminar's other participants - said that human life and value didn’t depend only on the “unlimited ability to accumulate material security,” but also on access to “power that can be used to change one’s situation”.

Ethnic tensions persist in Bosnia-Herzegovina, which is still struggling to recover from three years of bloody inter-ethnic war from 1992-95. Around 250,000 people died in the conflict between Bosnian Muslims, Croats and Serbs, which was part of the break-up of the former Yugoslavia. A European Union-led peacekeeping force, Eufor, is responsible for safeguarding peace and stability in the country.

Jeffrey Sachs Interview - The End of Poverty

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By Onnesha Roychoudhuri,

Jeffrey Sachs explains his plan to end the worst of human deprivation and misery and why it will work.

In February of this year, UN Secretary General Kofi Annan remarked: "We will not defeat terrorism unless we also tackle the causes of conflict and misgovernment in developing countries. And we will not defeat poverty so long as trade and investment in any major part of the world are inhibited by fear of violence or instability." The point was that a broader global security strategy needed to go hand in hand with a poverty reduction strategy. To that end, the UN set about drawing up its Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). Adopted by all member countries in 2000, the MDGs aim to achieve everything from eradicating extreme poverty to ensuring universal primary education and basic health care access, all by the year 2015.

In order to figure out how to reach these goals, Annan organized a panel of over 250 development experts to lay out practical strategies for promoting rapid development. Headed by economist Jeffrey Sachs, the panel published their final report in January of 2005. The report calls for both an increase in aid from Western countries and a reallocation of funding priorities in the developing countries themselves. The report also calls for more aid to be given on a local level. By bypassing governments, the UN hopes to spark more immediate and effective development. For instance, in one test case conducted in Kenya, UN funding went straight to the village of Sauri, where the schools were able to provide much-needed food for their students, and hence jumped in ranking from 68th to 7th in the district.

Shortly after the release of the UN report came the publication of Sachs' book, "The End of Poverty," in which he laid out his own strategies for eradicating poverty by 2025. Sachs, who gained renown for advising Latin American and Asian governments on economic reform, has gained popularity as "can-do" economist amidst a cacophony of naysayers on development. But his optimistic attitude has also attracted quite a bit of skepticism. Why is it that decades of development economics haven't achieved the elimination of poverty? What makes Sachs' proposals so special? Is eradicating poverty a feasible goal to achieve in our lifetime? Sachs recently sat down with Mother Jones to discuss these issues.

Mother Jones: What makes your plan to end poverty so different from the development efforts that were tried in the 1950s and '60s? Why hasn't five decades worth of development work been very successful thus far?

Jeffrey Sachs: I think so far there's been a lack of appropriate effort, which includes many things. For development to work, rich countries need to help poor countries make certain practical investments that are often really very basic. Once you get your head around development issues and realize how solvable many of them are, there are tremendous things that can be done. But for decades we just haven't tried to do many of these basic things. For instance, one issue that has been tragically neglected for decades now is malaria. That's a disease that kills up to 3 million people every year. It's a disease that could be controlled quite dramatically and easily if we just put in the effort. It's truly hard for me to understand why we aren't.

What do you say to critics who argue that it's a waste to put more money into a development system that hasn't used that money very effectively thus far?

Well, we have to be smart about whatever we're doing. But I'm quite convinced that, broadly speaking, economic development works. The main arguments of the Millennium Project Report, and the main argument of my book is that there are certain places on the planet that, because of various circumstances—geographical isolation, burden of disease, climate, or soil—these countries just can't quite get started. So it's a matter of helping them get started, whether to grow more food or to fight malaria or to handle recurring droughts. Then, once they're on the first rung of the ladder of development, they'll start climbing just like the rest of the world.

So do you believe that past efforts, to get these less-developed countries on the "first rung," haven't been pragmatic enough?

Part of it is that many of these countries are invisible places, neglected by us politically, neglected by our business firms, by international markets, and by trade. We tend to focus on these countries only when they're in such extraordinary crises that they get shown on CNN because they're in a deep drought or a massive war, which is something that impoverished countries are much more prone to falling to. There haven't been too many stories in our press about Senegal, Ghana, Tanzania, Malawi, or Ethiopia, other than when the disasters hit. And yet these are places that are in very deep trouble all of the time, but with largely solvable problems. And those are the kinds of the places that I'm talking about as being stuck in extreme poverty.

If there's been no real effort to draw the world's attention to those places, is there any hope that funding will go there?

The world got side-tracked from development issues during the post-9/11 crisis period. During the war in Iraq there were bitter divisions in the world community, and the idea of being able to focus on the problems of extreme poverty or malaria or drought and chronic hunger in Africa were just not at the top of the world's debate.

But I think the tsunami in the Indian Ocean last December, in which we could all see the scope of the devastation on our television screens, shifted discussion towards the plight of the world's poor. So now there are some positive signs. Tony Blair has pushed for an Africa Commission which just produced a report in March that focuses on poorest of the poor in Africa. There will be a UN poverty summit this September which is predicted to be the largest gathering of world leaders in history. And I'm traveling extensively around the world talking about these issues. So I think that even in our country, there is a growing discussion.

I know that former World Bank employee and economist William Easterly has criticized your proposals and called for what he terms a "piecemeal reform" approach in which development efforts are carried out one step at a time, with subsequent evaluation. What is your response to this?

Basically, I don't think that we should be choosing between whether a young girl has immunizations or water, or between whether her mother and father are alive, because they have access of treatment for AIDS, or whether she has a meal at school, or whether her father and mother, who are farmers, are able to grow enough food to feed their family and earn some income. Those all strike me as quite doable and practical things that can be done at once.

I make the analogy that farmers, to grow their food, need good soil, sunshine, proper rain, and heat. If you don't [have] one of those, even if you have the other three, your crop is still not going to grow. A lot of life in a poor village is like that. If you have a clinic but you don't have safe drinking water, or if you have safe drinking water and a clinic, but you don't have bed nets to fight malaria, you just don't get the kind of needs met and the basic quality of life that gives you a chance. I think that Bill Easterly misunderstands what I propose. I'm not proposing a single global plan dictated by some UN central command. Quite the opposite, I'm proposing that we help people help themselves. This can be done without legions of people rushing over to these countries to build houses and schools. This is what people in their own communities can do if we give them the resources to do it.

Part of Easterly's argument is that if you implement different strategies all at once, it will be difficult to isolate and understand which strategies worked effectively, and which did not. Do you share this concern?

I have been working with over 250 of my colleagues on the Millennium Development Report. Everybody here is an expert on a different thing. The soil scientists really know a lot about how to improve soil nutrients and the doctors really know a lot about how to keep children alive. The malariologists really know how to control malaria and the hydrologists really know how to get safe drinking water in a community. One doesn't have to test whether it's good to have more food production, or malaria bed nets or doctors or teachers. These are proven technologies. If we were introducing something new, that would be different, but ours is not an approach based on new discoveries, this is an approach based on the best of proven technologies.

Some critics have expressed concern that the Millennium Goals may set unrealistic targets for certain countries. What if those countries fail to meet the specified level of development and then disillusioned donors decide to lower their funding?

First, it should be understood that the goals in most cases are set proportionate to a given country's situation. So we'll reduce by two-thirds the child mortality rate, or by three-fourths the maternal mortality rate. We're not aiming at the same absolute standard in every country. I think that the other thing that is really important to understand is that as I have been working with the UN on this for the last 3 years and meeting leaders all over the world. What I've found is that their concern isn't that the goals are too high. Exactly the opposite: They actually want these UN goals, they want them to be ambitious, and they want to be held to account. And they want their development partners, the developed world, to be held to account on following through on commitments. Again, this all goes towards pressuring rich nations to set aside 0.7 percent of GNP for development aid. That is not a goal that I set, or that the UN set, this is a goal that was adopted 35 years ago by the world community and the goal that was set again in the Monterrey consensus signed by the U.S. in 2002.

What about aid being sent to countries that have a serious problem with corruption? Some have argued that large amounts of aid will merely prop up those regimes. Can poverty be eradicated while corrupt politicians are in office?

My experience is that there's corruption everywhere: in the U.S., in Europe, in Asia, and in Africa. It's a bit like infectious disease—you can control it, but it's very hard to eradicate it. And yes, there are some cases where the corruption is so massive that unless you are really, really clever and come up with some radically new approach to the issue, you're going to have a hard time accomplishing many development goals. It's quite hard in a place like Zimbabwe, now, where the current government, in a quite despicable way, clings to power. Or, in a country where there is absolutely no transparency or where you have a family ruling violently to stay in power. It's very hard to do a lot of the things that really need to be done to build an effective school system, a health system, and so on. I don't have any magic solution for those situations.

But, let me note that the world successfully eradicated small pox, and not just in countries that scored high on a governance index but in all parts of the world. This was an international effort which targeted a specific outcome undertaken by professionals using a proven technology and a very extensive monitoring system. And that's the general model for our aid proposals. Nothing is done on trust. Everything should be done on a basis of measurement and monitoring. When you really focus, there are so many ways to be clever about how to do this to make it work better. Don't just send money; send bed nets, send in auditors, make targets quantitative. There are a lot of tricks, a lot of ways, that if one is practical about this, one can get results.

But what happens is that everyone's wringing their hands about corruption without trying to solve practical problems. And right now, we're not even helping the well-governed places, the places where we are capable of finding absolutely practical and effective approaches to turning help into real success on the ground. The basic issue is not to lecture about morality and governance. The basic issue is, is there a way for us to help to fight AIDS, TB, malaria, and other killers which are taking an incredible number of lives? I've seen these children dying, each time I visit these clinics. And these are absolutely preventable deaths.

Now you suggest in your book that we need to assess ailing economies just as doctors assess patients. You call it "clinical economics." Does the current academic curriculum for development economics provide a sufficient framework for educating people to ensure that the MDGs will be achieved by future economists?

No it doesn't. I realized 10 or 15 years ago that the students in economics departments write dissertations about countries that they never stepped foot in because their advisor gives them a database from Nigeria or Kenya or some place else, and they do their thesis that way. That's like becoming a doctor without ever seeing a patient. We don't do case studies. We don't train students to understand the differences across countries. There are a tremendous number of loose generalizations made all the time

Similarly, people aren't trained in the practical experiences of being operational. Sometimes people say, "We teach academic things, we don't teach operational things." But, frankly, to do development right, you have to do something that's more like going through medical school and having a clinical hospital where you actually learn about different cases, and do case analyses. When something goes wrong, you study it. There are what are called "M&M rounds" in hospitals—morbidity and mortality rounds. When something doesn't work, when a patient dies or doesn't get better, the doctors get together to discuss the case. We don't do that in academic economics. For me, the field is not properly organized right now to really take on these challenges adequately and I'm hoping that the field will become more like a clinical science.

In your book, you recount some of your experiences in developing countries. In one passage you note, "One day in Goni's office we were brainstorming and hit on the idea of establishing an emergency social fund that would direct money to the poorest communities to help finance local infrastructure like water harvesting, or irrigation, or road improvements. I picked up the phone and called the World Bank. Katherine Marshall, the head of the Bolivia team at the Bank immediately responded, "You're right, let's do this." Why is it that a whole World Bank team specializing in Bolivia hadn't come up with the idea that you had?

Well, sometimes they have ideas, sometimes I have ideas. It just so happened in this case that the idea came from me. But I do feel that in Washington over the last 25 years, especially during this era called "the structural adjustment era," there hasn't been a lot of actual problem-solving. There has been a lot of concern about budget-saving on the part of the rich countries. A lot of what was really happening in Washington had a subtext: "Keep poor people away from our taxpayers, tell them to tighten their belts, tell them to solve their own problems, tell them to keep sending their debt payments to us."

It was, in my view, a very unhappy and unsatisfactory period and there were, no doubt, a lot of creative people that were prepared to do a lot of things but they weren't given assignments to do that. I was absolutely shocked and aghast when I learned that in the late 1990s the World Bank and other donors weren't paying a penny to help treat people dying of AIDS.

Rarely do rich countries say, "Look, we're just not prepared to spend money to save poor people's lives." Instead, you get a lot of skepticism. "You can't do this, this is impossible. We're doing everything we can after all. We've tried everything. Let's go slowly. Let's do one thing at a time." I don't buy those arguments. I think that they all essentially stem from a vision that has been forced on the professional staff of these agencies because they have no money to spend. And they have no money to spend because in the end, the United States and other rich countries aren't giving them the resources to enable them to think ambitiously enough. One of the reasons why that is, is because the American people think we're doing everything we can be doing and frankly because they're told that there's nothing more we can do.

Do you think the U.S. will ever agree to dedicate 0.7 percent of its GNP to development aid?

I don't think that any leading politician believes we're going to do that right now. It's not the conventional wisdom. The way it's going to happen is if the public tells the politicians, "Yes, we want to do this, we want to follow through on our word, it's good for us, and it's good for the world."

I've found in talks and discussion about the Millennium Project that people are very surprised to find out what the U.S. is and is not doing vis-à-vis the world's poor. Opinion surveys show, and I find this verified in audiences, e-mails, and discussion groups, that people tend to overestimate U.S. assistance efforts, usually by a factor of about 25 or 30. People think that we give several percent of our annual income and several percent, maybe even a quarter of budget to foreign aid and they're shocked to find out that it's actually much less than 1 percent of our budget. They're shocked to find that throughout Africa, the kind of practical investments that I'm talking about run to about 1 penny out of every $100 of our GNP. They can't believe it, but that's the unfortunate situation. When they find that out, and they see that we're spending $500 billion on the military and only about $1 to $2 billion on investments in Africa, they're concerned because I think that they feel this is probably not the best choice for America.

What do you think of two recent proposed strategies—President Bush's Millennium Challenge Accounts (MCA), and Britain's International Financing Fund (IFF), proposed by Tony Blair and Gordon Brown—as means of promoting global development?

They're both good ideas. But by now, the MCA was supposed to have dispersed $1.7 billion dollars, $3.3 billion in the second year, and $5 billion in the third year. It has missed all its targets. In three years, it's only committed about $100 million dollars to one project. It has not yet been turned into a reality.

Brown's is also a very good idea. Unfortunately the U.S. basically said "no" to participation in that. I think the European countries will undertake the IFF, but not with any U.S. support. But the IFF is a very good concept—the idea is that Britain and six other countries have announced a timetable to reach a goal of dedicating 0.7 percent of their GNP to development by the year 2015. So what this would do is allow them actually to borrow against the rising trend so that they could frontload some of the money.

What the Africa Commission, the Millennium Development Report, the World Bank and IMF have all found is that right now poor countries could usefully absorb a tremendous increase of money and use it properly. The IMF and World Bank recently released a report called the Global Monitoring Report which said that aid should be doubled. There is a professional understanding that the money is needed to break the poverty trap and save lives and that the money can be effectively used.

Onnesha Roychoudhuri is an editorial fellow at Mother Jones.

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Lawmaker Laments Poverty Amidst Plenty

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by Ahamefula Ogbu,

A member of the House of Representatives, Hon. Usman Bugage, has said the rising profile of the country's revenue does not reflect on the people's living standard, noting that it was very difficult to explain how the oil money was being applied.

Bugage, who spoke in Abuja yesterday at the opening ceremony of a conference tagged: "Nigeria's War Against Corruption in Myth or Reality," said Nigeria could not justify her huge revenue from oil in the face of poverty in the land, more so when there was no checks and balances in the way the revenue was being applied as President Olusegun Obasanjo is also the Minister of Petroleum.

Bugaje said since the inception of the democratic dispensation, it has been impossible to check the books of Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) because the executive refuses to allow the oversight of the corporation, adding that such could not augur well for the anti-corruption fight.

For a successful fight against corruption which he admitted has ravaged the country, Bugaje submitted that there must be a synergy between the three tiers and three arms of government on whose shoulders the application of the resources of the nation rests. He added that the nation stood a chance of catching up with its peers who are decades ahead if it takes the fight against corruption seriously.

He noted that the near absolute control of the executive arm of government has on anti-corruption agencies and the media was imbuing it with the ability to pick and choose what and who to fight.

"For example, we hear about other ministries and see their memos come to council, but we don't seem to hear anything on the Ministry of Petroleum Resources which the President has held close to his chest for six years running. We have not heard any special memo from this special ministry coming to council in these six years, nor has any parliamentary committee succeeded in carrying out its oversight function successfully.

"Members of the Appropriations Committee would recall the difficulty they face in establishing beyond reasonable doubts the exact revenue from the sales of crude oil; members of finance committee are still waiting to be told what exactly happened in the use of the revenue from excess crude to pay off 2004 budget deficits. Where is transparency? Where is accountability? Where is due process," he said

In a paper by Professor Attahiru Jegga of the Department of Political Science, Bayero University, Kano titled, "The Fight Against Corruption and Democratisation in Nigeria: How Little, How Late? he noted that one of the challenging tasks of democrats in periods of transition was to sift the good from the bad and to apply the good for greater benefit of the majority.

"One of the challenging tasks for democrats in periods of transition to democratic rule is associated with identifying positive gains and separating them from Negative tendencies, and then organizing effectively to prevent negative tendencies and ensure greater and more positive gains. That is how credible democratic consolidation comes about; through positive issues based coalitions and alliances of democracy inclined civil society groups", he noted.

He said that there was need for the civil society groups to keep the pressure on governments to focus on what should benefit the majority but regretted that the group in Nigeria was lagging behind in this regard.

MSF fights measles epidemic and starts therapeutic feeding in Chadian capital

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The transport and storage of the 300,000 vaccine doses needed for the campaign make for a huge challenge. Vaccines are sensitive products which lose their potency when exposed to heat, a real problem in N'Djamena where temperatures easily reach 40 degrees.

Measles are an aggravating factor for malnutrition. For that reason MSF has decided to do, in parallel with the vaccination campaign, a nutritional screening with a so-called MUAC-test. The first results indicate high numbers of cases of severe malnutrition.

After having vaccinated over 40,000 children in the Bousso district, 300kms south of N'Djamena, MSF medical teams have now joined their colleagues in the capital of Chad. More aid workers continue to arrive to take some pressure of the teams on the field.

With over 4,400 measles cases reported in the city early April, the emergency now calls for both preventive and curative medical action. N'Djamena, a city with an estimated population of one million, is facing the risk of a very long and very lethal epidemic. MSF has deployed a team of 30 specialists to help fight the threat.

A massive vaccination campaign started on May 11 and aims to immunise an estimated 280,000 children. MSF has opened 29 mobile vaccination sites, in collaboration with the Ministry of Health.

The transport and storage of the 300,000 vaccine doses needed for the campaign make for a huge challenge. Vaccines are sensitive products which lose their potency when exposed to heat, a real problem in N'Djamena where temperatures easily reach 40 degrees. The success of the immunization campaign depends to a large extend upon the quality of the "cold chain", the combination of measures used to keep the vaccines between +2° and +8°C at all times.

"You don't freeze a thousand ice packs in a few minutes," explains Valentin Omari Sefu, logistical coordinator for this intervention. "It usually takes a week to organise such a massive campaign, but we managed to do it in three days by bringing back frozen packs and two freezers from Bousso. It's a terrible ten hours journey and we got almost stuck twice."

Maintaining the cold chain is only one of the difficulties in an urgent and massive campaign like this one. Installed in temporary shelters, the medical staff must follow strict guidelines to reach the target of 1,000 immunisation per team per day. Timing is crucial to cut the spread of the epidemic.

Measles are an aggravating factor for malnutrition. For that reason MSF has decided to, in parallel with the vaccination campaign, do a nutritional screening with a so-called MUAC-test. The first results indicate high numbers of cases of severe malnutrition. MSF has already sent two nutritional kits with the equipment necessary to weigh, measure, register and feed one hundred severely malnourished children each, and opened three therapeutic feeding centres under the supervision of a nutritional medical nurse. Severely malnourished children must be intubated and need very close medical and nutritional monitoring.

As the number of infections keeps growing, MSF is also providing medical support and drugs to 17 health centres for the less severe cases. The most severely infected patients are referred to the Union and Sultan Kasser Hospital, where MSF specialists assist the resident staff in treating the concomitant infections, such as pneumonia.

While MSF is trying to take control of the epidemic in the capital, new measles cases have been reported from two southern districts, Salamat and Moyen Chari, more then 600 km away from N'Djamena. Assessment teams are on their way to evaluate the situation.

Poverty, crime, and oppression seen as fueling Uzbeks' anger

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By Anna Dolgov,

MOSCOW -- Positioned on the ancient Great Silk Road between Asia and Europe, and on a modern drug-trafficking route, Uzbekistan has been torn by religious violence, crime, poverty, and political persecution since gaining independence in 1991 through the collapse of the Soviet Union.

Clashes between protesters and government forces in eastern Uzbekistan reportedly have left hundreds dead since Friday. Uzbek witnesses interviewed by news agencies accused the government of opening fire on demonstrators. Islam Karimov, who became president of the Soviet republic in 1990 and has held power ever since, blamed Islamic extremists for the clashes.

Uzbekistan holds a strategically valuable position on the border with Afghanistan, and has allowed the United States to operate a military base at Khanabad near the border since soon after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, becoming a major US ally in Central Asia during the war on terrorism. But human rights campaigners have accused Uzbek authorities of using their cooperation with the West to gain tolerance of human rights violations in Uzbekistan.

Uzbekistan also shares a border with Kyrgyzstan, another former Soviet republic where street protests toppled the government earlier this spring and forced the president to flee the country. The Kyrgyz protests disintegrated into a looting spree that left behind smashed shop windows and ransacked stores.

Similar to Kyrgyzstan, the Uzbek opposition appears to have no single leader or common cause, while Uzbekistan's human rights record is poorer than that of its neighbor, and its post-Soviet history more violent. The United Nations has accused Karimov's government of systematic torture of his political opponents. All Uzbek press is controlled by the state, and the country has virtually no legitimate political opposition.

Political life in Uzbekistan has been ''burnt out and razed" by government suppression, Russian analyst Maxim Shevchenko told the Radio Rossii station yesterday. He described the Uzbek unrest as a spontaneous revolt, which may be difficult to direct or contain.

The Uzbek protests were prompted by the jailing of a group of businessmen accused of Islamic extremism, but whom protesters described as peaceful opponents of the government. The protest also seemed a manifestation of public anger over deep poverty and social problems.

Uzbekistan is one of the poorest among the 15 former Soviet republics, according to the World Bank, and unemployment is rife. The country is famed for its majestic mosques in the ancient cities of Bukhara and Samarkand, which had prospered when busy trade moved through Uzbekistan along the Great Silk Road. Now, Afghan opiates move through Uzbekistan on the way to Russia and Western Europe.

The other governments of Central Asian nations also fear a rise of Islamic extremism a concern that Karimov has cited as the reason for his crackdown on human rights.

Bombings in Uzbekistan killed more than a dozen people in 1999, and claimed several dozen more last year. The government blamed the attacks on radical Islamic groups. Rebels who seek to carve out a Muslim state in Central Asia clashed with government troops in the 1990s in the Fergana Valley, which Uzbekistan shares with Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan. The Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, which operates largely from exile, has been declared a terrorist group by the US State Department and has been accused of carrying out numerous past attacks in the region.

Two Fronts in the War on Poverty

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Bush Seeks More Aid for Church Groups; Others Face Uncertainty
By Michael A. Fletcher

BALTIMORE -- Jacquelyn D. Cornish keeps several postcards on her desk at the Druid Heights Community Development Corp., which has marshaled millions in government money in a decades-long effort to renovate houses and rebuild a proud community ravaged by drug addiction, crime and poverty. The cards are from agents looking to buy homes, a small but promising sign that the organization's work is making a difference in this tough corner of west Baltimore.

Just a mile away at Sacred Zion Full Gospel Baptist Church, federal money is spent on, as President Bush might say, changing hearts. Here, the drug-addicted and the HIV-infected come in for quiet counseling sessions in a corner of the fluorescent-lighted sanctuary, or to let counselors know they have established some shred of normalcy in their chaotic lives by reconnecting with family, finding an apartment or joining a church.

Both Sacred Zion and the Druid Heights corporation are engaged in the type of "social entrepreneurship" encouraged by Bush, who says both faith-based and secular groups play a vital role in the difficult task of bringing relief to the distressed and impoverished. But the president's budget proposals say something else when it comes to the nation's fight against poverty.

Bush has pushed for increased funding for religion-based groups while proposing deep cuts for many traditional anti-poverty programs. The result is that many small church- and community-based social service programs are slowly assuming the lead role in the war on poverty once held by long-established community development organizations. Administration officials say that faith-based groups are often less expensive and more effective in helping the needy, a contention that traditional service providers challenge.

"By any account, the administration's initiative has made it easier for a broader range of faith-based programs to apply for federal funds, and we appreciate that," said Douglas Rice, director of housing and community development policy for Catholic Charities USA, whose local affiliates have benefited from the shift. "But if you don't substantially increase the resources that are available, this is going to increase the competition for available funds."

Bush's 2006 budget proposed slashing public housing subsidies, food stamps, energy assistance, community development, social services and community services block grants -- programs that for decades have constituted the federal anti-poverty fight. While congressional budget makers have promised to restore some of the funding, they also have agreed to the president's tax cuts and overall spending targets, meaning there will be stiff competition for a shrinking pot of money.

At the same time, Bush's budget proposal for next year contemplates adding $385 million in new religion-based programs to this year's eventual total. The federal government awarded more than $2 billion in such grants in 2004 -- nearly double the amount awarded in 2003. Funding under the president's faith- and community-based initiative has gone up despite Congress's refusal to enact legislation that would allow faith-based groups to discriminate by religion when hiring staff, something Bush says should be allowed as long as they offer their services to people of all faiths and do not use federal money to proselytize.

"That doesn't make any sense, to tell a faith-based provider that they cannot practice the religion that inspires them in the work of compassion," said Bush, a Methodist who credits his religious faith for helping him stop drinking and handle the demands of his job. "There's all kinds of ways to quit drinking," he added in remarks to a March conference of faith-based social service providers, "but one of the most effective ways to quit drinking is for a person to make a choice to go to a place that changes your heart."

Here in Baltimore, a city notable for its unpretentious charm but also its deep social problems, the federal shift away from traditional community development programs has generated widespread uncertainty. While the anti-poverty groups are confronted with an uncertain future, church-based organizations that often provide similar services but often have less experience are flourishing.

"It is almost as if we're being replaced," said Cornish, who started out with the Druid Heights organization as a volunteer when it was formed 31 years ago. She became director in 1989. "Potential cuts or talk of it wakes up everyone. It takes you off course. And it leaves you wondering, 'Why?' "

It certainly is not because Druid Heights does not need the help. In another era, the community was home to Baltimore's black elite. Thurgood Marshall, the first black Supreme Court justice, grew up nearby, as did Clarence M. Mitchell Jr., the legendary NAACP lobbyist, and his brother, Parren J. Mitchell, the first African American elected to Congress from Maryland. But the neighborhood has fallen on hard times. Along some of its narrow "alley streets," drug users line up to buy their hits as if heroin and cocaine were legal. Some liquor stores open at 6 a.m., and the addicted queue up there, too.

At the beginning of the month, haphazard piles of furniture dot the curbs, evidence of an eviction rate that is 50 percent higher than the citywide average, even though the median housing price -- which included many shells and vacant lots -- was $21,000 in 2004, according to a city-run database.

Amid the problems, there are flickering signs of hope, many of which are being fanned by the community development corporation. The organization runs a transition program for newly released inmates, financial literacy programs for first-time home buyers, an after-school homework program, a program to foster understanding between black residents and Korean merchants, and even a Boy Scout troop. It also rents some of its space to a day-care center.

But its stock in trade is using government money to leverage other financing to renovate buildings for low- and moderate-income housing. Recently, the corporation bought an entire block of run-down alley homes, demolished them and built more than 50 townhouses with garages. They sold for $37,000 to $57,000, although the construction cost more than double that. "It is a short-term loss, but a long-term investment," Cornish said.

For years, those kinds of projects were not enough to hold back the tide of decline. But with housing prices spiraling across the region and crime slowly headed down in Druid Heights, there are signs of interest in the community. Recently, a two-family home in the neighborhood sold for $212,000 -- a once unheard-of sum.

Just as things are looking up, the federal money that is the lifeblood of the development corporation's work is in jeopardy. This year, $278,000 -- close to half of its already shrinking budget -- came from the imperiled community block grant program. Bush administration officials have said they targeted for cuts programs deemed ineffective. With Republicans controlling Congress and the White House, it also does not help that in many urban areas, community development corporations such as Druid Heights are identified with Democratic politics. Cornish is a former member of the Maryland Democratic State Central Committee. But she said her political affiliation is irrelevant to her work.

All she knows is that without federal money, the corporation would have to lay off some of its 10 staff members and stop much of its work. "You tell me," she said, "what is their measuring stick for effectiveness?"

Not far from Druid Heights, in a woebegone commercial strip, Sacred Zion does what it can to defeat some of the demons set loose by the city's enormous drug problem. An estimated 40,000 Baltimoreans -- nearly one in 15 residents -- are drug addicts, and the Rev. Bertha Greene has seen the fallout firsthand. Her son, Phillip L. Solomon, who was gay and a heroin addict, found out he was HIV-positive in 1989. He died in 2000 at age 40, but not before he had become a minister and Greene started her church, carving out a niche working with those with HIV or at high risk of getting the disease.

"I got to know some of my son's friends, and I became a person they could call on," Greene said. "They helped me realize that there are some great needs going unaddressed by the body of Christ." That insight led Greene to start Project ARISE -- Abstinence, Remembering, Instilling Pride, Self-worth and Education -- in 1999.

The program has received a big boost with the expansion of federal religion-based funding. This year, its budget includes a $249,000 federal grant, up from $105,000 last year. Outreach workers scour the streets to tell drug users about the project's HIV testing program and its counseling services that connect addicts with transitional housing, needle exchange and other resources. The program also teaches clients about safe sex, which leaves Greene conflicted because it requires her to sanction behavior she preaches against from the pulpit.

"Being a faith-based organization, it was an awkward place for us to be. We believe in abstinence," she said, explaining that the program has to meet clients "where they are."

Still, religious faith comes into play at Project ARISE. Staff members do not hesitate to pray for clients who request it. "I will say to my clients if they are feeling despair, 'God loves you, God made you special,' " said Edna Reynolds, the program's director.

Reynolds said she is hard pressed to say just how effective the program is. "I don't often get to see their success," she said of the clients. "But I feel we have to be here for them. When they leave here, I have to feel that we planted a seed with them."

The clients, who are saddled with AIDS, drug addiction, and their accompanying guilt and shame, describe the program as a godsend. Wanda A. Floyd, 38, fell victim to heroin in her early twenties. Her smooth, dark skin and straight, white teeth are still striking, despite the years of drug abuse and a decade of living with HIV.

She first stumbled into Sacred Zion with her husband more than a year ago in search of food. Since then, her husband has been murdered, leaving her alone to cope with the sad reality of her life: four children, HIV, no job and no friends outside the drug world. Now, she is looking to Sacred Zion for a residential drug treatment program.

Live Aid II set for London

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LIVE AID II is expected to take place in LONDON’s HYDE PARK.

The Prince’s Trust has cancelled its annual Party In The Park concert, which was due to take place in the capital on July 2, to make way for the possible event.

According to BBC News, Martina Milburn, chief executive of The Prince’s Trust said it was “delighted to support Live 8” and that Party In The Park would return in 2006.

Live Aid organiser Bob Geldof has so far denied plans for Live Aid II - dubbed Live 8 - though the BBC has said it is in “discussions” with the star to screen the concert.

The event is expected to take place in support of the Make Poverty History campaign, which highlights the global problem that a child dies every three seconds due to extreme poverty.

Acts already linked with Live 8 include U2, The Rolling Stones and Sir Paul McCartney.

Geldof’s spokespeople have confirmed that there are discussions about holding shows and an announcement is expected in the next few days.

It is rumoured that a similar concert may take place in Washington on the same day.

Live 8 would coincide with the G8 conference, which is due to take place in Scotland on July 2.

The original Live Aid concert was held at London’s Wembley Stadium in 1985 and in Philadelphia.

It raised £60 million from pledges by the public and attracted a global audience of 1.5 billion.

Geldof in poverty call

From The Gulf Daily News
Leaders of the Group of Eight wealthy nations are not welcome in Scotland unless they do more to end world poverty, rock star and activist Bob Geldof said yesterday.

The leaders of the G8 countries plan to hold a summit at Gleneagles, north of Edinburgh, in July. "If they come here with the attitude that I know they currently have, of doing nothing, and letting them get away with it - don't come, stay at home, not welcome," Geldof said.

Geldof, who started the Live Aid appeal 20 years ago in response to famine in Ethiopia, was addressing a conference in the Scottish parliament. He called on G8 leaders to follow through on their pledges concerning debt, trade and aid.

MDG report highlights poverty alleviation

From The Sunday Observer, written by Ranga Jayasuriya.

Sri Lanka's plans to uplift over five million of country's poor will be the highlight of the Millennium Development Goals Report to be released this week at the donor forum in Kandy.

The report, first of its kind to be drafted by the government with the collaboration of the National Council for Economic Development will be the yardstick by which the country can measure the success of its long and short-term strategies.

The report assesses the United Nations' target of halving poverty in Sri Lanka by 2015.

The persistent problems dogging the plantation sector, North-East and rural areas are set against a backdrop of steady progress in lowering infant and maternal mortality and achieving significant education goals for children, according to the report. "There are about five million people living in poverty in Sri Lanka, perhaps more," says the report, noting that if statistics from districts affected by the ethnic conflict had been available, poverty figures would be much higher.

It also spotlights the disparity in development and the growing poverty in inland rural areas and the coastal belt affected by the December 26 tsunami. It identifies that despite slow pace of development on some fronts, the island boasts of high literacy rates with some 85 per cent of children between 6 to 10 years attending school and a high number of children having access to free primary and secondary education.

Eight targets envisaged to achieve through the Millennium Development Goals Project are halving the global poverty by 2015, achieve universal primary and secondary education by 2015, gender equality at education, reduce infant mortality, improve maternal health, combat HIV/AIDS, ensure environmental sustainability and develop global partnership for development.

The plans due to be unveiled at the donor meet this week is formulated based on a survey which covers the eight co-areas of development goals and is a reference point for data on the state of the economy, aid flows, health and education indicators, water, sanitation and the environment and infrastructure growth.

[African Aids Crisis] No Longer Out Of Sight Out Of Mind The African AIDS Crisis

From Relevant Magazine, written by Margaret Feinberg.

Recently, I was running some errands with a friend when she asked me about the assignments that I was working on. I mentioned that I working on an article on the AIDS crisis in Africa.

“I don’t know why we have to worry about a problem that’s overseas when we have so many problems of our own,” she said.

“Because it isn’t just men and women who have AIDS,” I explained. “It’s children. It’s babies. It’s kids who are orphans because both of their parents have died and they’re selling themselves on the street because they have nowhere else to go.”

My friend was quiet for a moment, then responded with a bit more tenderness in her voice, “Well, no one has ever explained it to me quite like that.”

For most Americans, myself included, it’s far too easy to dismiss the AIDS crisis in Africa as just another cause until we realize that the future of a continent is at stake. Already, life expectancy is falling in certain nations like Botswana. Schools are losing their teachers. Prisons don't have enough guards. Governments can't protect their peoplebecause their police and soldiers are dying. Churches are losing their members and some of their clergy.

Recah Theodosiou, a 27-year-old from South Africa, says, “I wish everyone realized that a person with AIDS in Africa is not as foreign to them as they think. Although Africa and America are very different places and far away from each other, Africans and Americans are all people with feelings, thoughts and emotions. I sometimes think that because Africa is far away and foreign, its crisis is not real to everyone and is easily forgotten. ‘Out of sight, out of mind’ as the saying goes.”

Theodosiou has seen the impact of AIDS in her home city of Port Elizabeth, which is located on the southeast coast of South Africa. She says there is only one haven offering free care for the estimated 100,000 impoverished people who are HIV-positive. This haven, the House of Resurrection, can only afford to care for about 12 children and eight adults at a time.

“Almost every patient at the haven has a horror story to tell of what their lives were like before they were fortunate enough to be able to receive care there,” Theodosiou says. “One of the boys, who is now 4 years old, was locked in a windowless back room of his house with no food when his family suspected he had AIDS after his parents died. Fortunately a neighbor alerted social services, which rescued him and brought him to the haven. He was severely malnourished and to this day has never said a word. He only motions ‘yes’ or ‘no’ with a shake or nod of his head.”

Another man at the haven, who is now 31 years old, was left in a cold hospital corridor to die because the hospital did not have the staff and resources to care for him, and a 7-year-old girl, whose mother died of AIDS and whose father wants nothing to do with her because she also has AIDS, is so depressed that the haven head, registered nurse Maggie Williams, says no antidepressant drugs seem to help her.

Today, Theodosiou lives in Nashville and works as a freelance journalist as well as a volunteer worker for the nonprofit organization DATA (Debt_AIDS_Trade_Africa). She says that it’s been challenging to raise awareness of the AIDS crisis. “I have noticed while living in America that because the country is so huge, most of the news coverage is concerned with America itself or where America is involved overseas, and there is far less coverage of international events,” she says.

“When the crisis was eventually brought to the attention of Americans and the American Church, I believe a general misunderstanding of AIDS in Africa prevented them from responding to it. I think people thought that because it is a sexually transmitted disease, the people who are infected brought it upon themselves, and many thought that it was spread predominantly by homosexual transmission, which it is not.”

“Perhaps the American Church was slow to respond specifically because the disease is sexually transmitted, and because responding to a disease on this scale was not part of its traditional missionary work of evangelism and caring for the general needs of the impoverished. I must say, though, that not only America but the whole world has been slow to respond to the crisis in Africa.”

So what can the average American do to help with the AIDS crisis?

The first is to give money, no matter how little, to a reputable on-the-ground project like the House of Resurrection haven. The only thing preventing this haven, and many other projects like it, from caring for more people is a lack of funding. You can help support a reputable nonprofit organization like DATA (www.data.org) or World Vision (www.worldvision.org). World Vision's Hope Initiative funds on-the-ground HIV/AIDS projects in Africa, and DATA lobbies first world governments to increase the amount of funding they use to help Africa with its AIDS crisis.

Second, you can encourage your senators and representatives to give more money to the global effort to help those with AIDS. This can be done simply by calling a toll-free number, which directs the caller to the relevant senator for the area where the call is made, and vocalizing support for America helping Africa with its AIDS crisis. This toll-free number is 1 877-HOPE-USA and is supported by DATA.

Third, you can help raise awareness of the issue. Read articles about the AIDS crisis and what the government is doing in response. Talk to friends about the issue, and help educate those who think that this is just another overseas problem.

[Margaret Feinberg is the author of Twentysomething: Thriving & Surviving in the Real World and God Whispers: Learning to Hear His Voice and Just Married: What Might Surprise You About the First Few Years (Harvest House Publishers). You can reach her at www.margaretfeinberg.com.]