Donors Disproportionately Give More Money for Iraq Than Money To Fight Poverty, AIDS
International donors have been "disproportionately generous" in their contributions to the reconstruction of Iraq compared with their contributions to fight poverty and AIDS, development and AIDS officials say, the AP/ABCNews.com reports. The $33 billion pledged to Iraq over the next four years, including $20 billion pledged by the United States, is more than 10 times the $2.8 billion in total annual funding for the U.N. Development Program, which provides aid to all underdeveloped nations. In addition, the amount is nearly 10 times the total pledges to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, according to the AP/ABCNews.com. President Bush for fiscal year 2004 has requested $20 billion for Iraq's reconstruction and $2 billion for the U.S. global AIDS initiative, $1 billion less than was authorized by Congress. Development agencies in developing countries are worried that the money donated to Iraq's reconstruction could "erode resources" needed in other countries, according to the AP/ABCNews.com. At least 42 million people worldwide are HIV-positive, and more than 20 million have died of AIDS-related illnesses, according to the World Health Organization. In Iraq, which is a middle-income country with major oil reserves, there are a total of 25 million people. "I don't deny that Iraqis are under stress and numbers of them are dying tragically. But I am forced to point out that more than two million Africans are dying of AIDS every year, and their poverty is vastly more wretched," Stephen Lewis, U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan's special envoy for AIDS in Africa, said, adding that the situation in Iraq "shouldn't eclipse everything else." However, Bush has said that rebuilding Iraq is crucial to fostering democracy and stability in the Middle East (Borst, AP/Richmond Times-Dispatch, 10/29).
Global Fund Executive Director Richard Feachem on Monday said that despite funding shortfalls that have forced a scale-back in grants, the fund should "aim high" and seek to quadruple its annual grant awards to at least $6 billion. Some observers have said that a recent round of funding, which was announced this month at a trustees' meeting earlier this month in Chiang Mai, Thailand, showed that the fund was in financial trouble. The $623 million in grants that was announced is significantly less than the $884 million announced in the previous round of funding, and about $100 million of the $623 million will have to be borrowed from pledges that are not expected to be fulfilled until next year. The fund next year plans to make only one round of grants totalling about $1 billion; however, a second round could follow if international donors give more next year than they are expected to give. In spite of funding shortfalls, Feachem said that the fund "need[s] to cruise at $6 (billion), $7 (billion), $8 billion a year." Although he would not say where the funding for such an expansion would come from, he "expressed confidence" in a plan proposed by French President Jacques Chirac at the G-8 summit in Evian, France, which calls for $1 billion in annual donations each from the United States and the European Union and $1 billion in combined donations from other donors -- including Japan, Canada, Australia and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, according to U.N. Wire (Hukill, U.N. Wire, 10/28).