Iraq War Would Quash Efforts to Fight AIDS, UN Africa Envoy Says
January 9, 2003
The UN special envoy on AIDS warned Wednesday that a war against Iraq would eclipse humanitarian efforts around the world, and 29.4 million Africans with the disease would be among those suffering the most.Adapted from:
"Wars divert attention, wars consume resources, wars ride roughshod over external calamities," said Stephen Lewis, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan's representative for AIDS issues in Africa. "People with HIV/AIDS are in a race against time. What they never imagined was that over and above the virus itself, there would be a new adversary, and that adversary would be war." Lewis said the conflict in Afghanistan showed that funding dried up and momentum was lost for humanitarian causes.
"I think exactly the same is almost certain to happen if we have a war in Iraq," he said. "The war in Iraq will be even more consuming because the world is more divided. Fighting AIDS in Africa will receive dreadfully short shrift."
Lewis spoke Wednesday while UN planners were assessing the effects and challenges of a possible war against Iraq starting as early as February. Lewis said the ripple effects of the war would come at a crucial juncture in the fight against AIDS in Africa, where "endless numbers of initiatives and projects and programs and models" could be strengthened with additional funds to "prolong and save millions of lives."
Lewis said that perhaps only a month remains for the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB and Malaria to raise the estimated $7 billion it needs for this year and 2004. "The response to the fund has been abysmal. It is inexplicable and terribly disappointing. We haven't had a contribution to the fund since Germany gave $50 million last July," Lewis said.
"What is required is a combination of political will and resources," he said. "You will forgive me for the strong language. But ... the time for polite, even agitated entreaties is over. This pandemic cannot be allowed to continue, and those who watch it unfold with a kind of pathological equanimity must be held to account. There may yet come a day," Lewis said, "when we have peacetime tribunals to deal with this particular version of crimes against humanity."
Los Angeles Times
01.09.03; John J. Goldman