Africa Mayors Tell of Real Ills
June 9, 2003
Three African mayors attending the US Conference of Mayors and the International Conference of Mayors meetings in Denver listened wistfully Friday as US mayors agonized over budget shortfalls. In the case of many African nations, money woes are bound up with the larger issue of HIV/AIDS.Adapted from:
"Every Saturday, our people are standing in front of graves to bury their families," said Mayor Otto Ipinge of Otjiwarongo, Namibia. According to the US Agency for International Development, an estimated 22 percent of adult Namibians are HIV-infected, and the nation's life expectancy has dropped to 46 years from 60 years in 1991. The pandemic affects every level of society, the mayors said, from health care to the economy to education. By 2010, Namibia expects to have lost 20 percent of its teachers to HIV/AIDS.
"HIV is putting entire economies at risk," said David Wakudumira, mayor of Jinja, Uganda's second-largest city and its leading industrial center. The city has a 38 percent unemployment rate and a 45 percent poverty rate.
"We are trying to get money to survive. We are appealing to everyone," said Mayor Victor Simelane of Lavumisa, Swaziland. In his border town on a truck route near South Africa, the 2,000 residents include 200 AIDS orphans. Because its women frequently turn to prostitution to support themselves, 38.5 percent of the town's pregnant women are HIV-infected. Lavumisa is seeking a shelter for the orphans, who have begun to beg and steal at the border crossing. Otjiwarongo already has such a shelter, along with a job center for women, Ipinge said.
Wakudimira, a lunchtime speaker on Thursday, had the attention of the more than 200 mayors present. But the other African mayors spoke late in the day to a mostly empty room. Hardly anyone was there to hear Ipinge's plea: "Globally, we must join hands to assist each other. We want to see that our people live."
06.08.03; Gwen Florio