Sunday, June 12, 2005

Africa's Suffering - The US Should Do More

The "Group of 8" (G-8 countries) lead by Britain recently forgave the debts of 18 of the world's poorest nations. The amount is $40 Billion. This was the culmination of a 10-year effort by Britain's Chancellor of the Exchequer (the equivalent of our Secretary of the Treasury) and a major assault on global poverty. The G-8 agreement was made only after Blair succeeded in obtaining US approval in a recent meeting with Bush. Repayments to the World Bank, the African Development Bank and the International Monetary Fund will be made by the international community. The US and Britain will contribute a total of $2 - $2.7 Billion per year for the next 10 years. All contributors have agreed to not reduce their future foreign aid by the amount of their repayment contribution.

Although the US participation is commendable is the US doing as much as it can to reduce poverty and its effects. Perhaps a look at other decisions will provide an answer. Blair and other European leaders are committed to fighting extreme poverty in Africa while Bush claims that past efforts have not been effective and that the US can not afford to contribute more. I believe the following article provides the answer: Bush's gift of forgiven debt, at the insistence of Blair, is empty. Bush is more concerned with providing tax breaks where they are not needed (mine, for example). The following article comes from the Online version of the LA times.

"Africa's Suffering Is Bush's Shame": Millions are dying because of American policy.
By Jeffrey D. Sachs, Jeffrey D. Sachs is a Columbia University economist and special adviso to U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan.

President Bush last week brazenly brushed aside British Prime Minister Tony Blair's call for a doubling of aid to Africa. Blair and other European leaders have taken on the task of fighting extreme poverty - and Bush watches from the sidelines. To justify its dereliction, the Bush administration perpetuates a mythology that contributes to the premature deaths of millions of people each year.

The U.S. is a generous provider of aid to Africa, the mythology says, but Africa is corrupt and mismanaged and thus cannot absorb more aid. In addition, there is no room in the budget to do any more than what we are currently doing. This multipart fantasy is widely shared in the U.S. and recalls Napoleon's dictum that "history is a fable often told."

The facts are otherwise. Total annual U.S. aid for all of Africa is about $3 billion, equivalent to about two days of Pentagon spending. About $1 billion pays for emergency food aid, of which half is for transport. About $1.5 billion is for "technical cooperation," essentially salaries of U.S. consultants. Only about $500 million a year - less than $1 per African - finances clinics, schools, food production, roads, power, Internet connectivity, safe drinking water, sanitation, family planning and lifesaving health interventions to fight malaria, AIDS and other diseases.

The myth that more aid would be squandered is pernicious. Once in a while, the industrialized countries try to accomplish something real in Africa. Notable examples are smallpox eradication begun in the 1960s, control of river blindness in the 1970s, increased child immunization in the 1980s, Jimmy Carter's initiatives to fight Guinea worm, trachoma and leprosy in the 1990s and Rotary International's bold efforts to eliminate polio this decade.

These interventions throughout Africa were remarkably successful. That they could be easily monitored was a key to their success. More victories could have been achieved - in food production, malaria control and AIDS treatment - if the efforts had been undertaken. Instead, U.S. aid was minuscule and misdirected into consultants' salaries and emergency food shipments.

If the administration were more than modestly interested in helping Africa, it could learn about the huge gains made possible by Blair's plan to provide about $50 billion a year to Africa by 2010 - with the U.S. kicking in $15 billion to $20 billion. With that money, Africa could control killer diseases, triple food production and cut hunger, and improve transportation and communications.

These steps, incidentally, would accelerate the continent's transition to lower fertility rates and slower population growth because they would contribute to a lower child mortality rate and economic gains, which would help persuade couples to have fewer children.

The new aid would not involve guesswork or be a blank check. Consider one example. Malaria will kill up to 3 million children this year, overwhelming Africa's meager hospitals. Yet five measures could end this: long-lasting insecticide-treated bed nets (cost: $7 per net); effective medications freely available to the poor; community health workers trained in malaria control; medical diagnostic capacity at the local level; and indoor insecticide spraying where appropriate. The cost: $3 billion a year for the industrialized countries, $1 billion for the U.S. - about 10 times what's currently spent on malaria control.

The administration's claim that budget restraints prevent more spending on Africa is the most cynical of its contentions. The president has cut taxes by more than $200 billion a year, with the wealthiest Americans the chief beneficiaries, and has raised military spending by $200 billion a year. But when $20 billion is needed to keep the poorest of the poor in Africa alive and put the continent's economies on a path toward long-term growth, there's no money available.

The millions of Africans who die young and the hundreds of millions going hungry are not victims of fate. They are the consequences of U.S. policy.Americans want to do better. (The following is a) Measure of a Continent's Misery

Leading causes of death in Africa (in 2002)

  • HIV/AIDS: 2.1 million
  • Malaria: 1.1 million
  • Cardiovascular disease: 1 million
  • Diarrhea-related diseases: 707,000
  • Poor nutrition: 143,000
  • Syphilis 89,000
  • War: 85,000

Number of people living with HIV in Sub-Saharan Africa (2004)

  • 25.4 million

Number of United Nations peacekeepers in Africa (2005)

  • 51,094

Worst life expectancy in Africa (2002)

  • 34 years, Sierra Leone

Worse rate of HIV infection in adults, ages 15 to 49 (2004)

  • 38.8%, Swaziland

Source: United Nations and World Health Organization


Karen Castevens said...

Joe, I think Bush would do more but I would not blame him if he didn't. First of all I am a Bush supporter...fault me if you will...but he made the decision to go to Iraq to help them too get out of the dictatorship of Saddam. And that has been a tragedy, so why go help those Africans? He would just be hit with more harsh words and protests. Anyway, I understand the frustration you feel, but I think he is doing the best he can. Have a good day in the Lord!!!

Laura said...

I'm glad you're blogging again. May I suggest you use a larger font for us old folks?

Pastor Phil Morgan said...

Great to see you blogging again Joe! Interesting read too. Thanks forputting it together.

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