UN Children’s Fund challenges G-8 to step up to plate on AIDS crisis
The head of the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) today challenged the leaders of the world’s richest nations meeting at the G-8 summit next week to adopt a “tide-turning approach” to the global AIDS crisis or else face the opprobrium of allowing millions more people to needlessly suffer and die.
The heads of government from Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States, along with the European Union, meeting on 1-3 June in Evian, France, must summon the collective leadership, resources and political will needed to tackle the global HIV/AIDS crisis, which is increasingly affecting children and young people, UNICEF Executive Director Carol Bellamy said.
Ms. Bellamy praised US President George W. Bush’s signing on Tuesday of a $15 billion emergency AIDS bill, saying it raises the ante for other major donor nations.
“The $15 billion could have huge impact for the 14 African and Caribbean nations it is meant to reach,” she said in a statement. “But the overwhelming majority of all people living with HIV or AIDS today – 95 per cent of them – have absolutely no access to treatment or care. For them, HIV is a death sentence.”
Noting that in three countries not covered by the US plan – Lesotho, Swaziland and Zimbabwe – a third of all young women between the ages of 15 and 24 are HIV-positive, she added: “To corner the virus, all countries – rich and poor –must step up to the plate. And the global response must focus on children and young people – because they’re hardest hit, and because their choices will determine the course of the epidemic.”
Schools are the most effective tool for curbing infection, she said. “Education can empower young people – especially girls – with a strong foundation of knowledge, skills and confidence needed to protect themselves and their communities. Education can chip away at the fear, stigma and discrimination that keep young people from seeking voluntary counselling, testing and treatment. And only education can give young people the economic and social capabilities to thrive in a more equal world,” she added.
For its part the World Food Programme (WFP) has put together a white paper on preventing and mitigating food crises in sub-Saharan Africa for G-8 leaders to consider.
Noting that some 196 million Africans are undernourished, and 40 million now suffer from severe food shortages, WFP suggests specific steps that G-8 nations can take to make emergency responses to food crises more effective.