Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Hooray for Baylor college of Medicine

I'm just so pleased to report finding this in my Houston Chronicle this morning. Baylor College of Medicine is establishing a Pediatric AIDS Corps to bring together early career pediatrician and the millions of African children who need them so desperately.

"One child dies of HIV in Africa every hour, every day of the year." With $30 million from drug giant Bristol-Meyers Squibb and $10 of its own money, BCM plans to built clinics, train doctors and bring life-saving drugs to these children (drugs that have been available in America for a decade). "Babies who used to die in days will now be able to celebrate birthdays."

BMC is obviously not the only NGO going to Africa and their initiative is only a dent in the bucket of need. And while great applause and kudos should go out to all who see the need for action and do something about it, true strides to help in Africa will only come from an international push to end the suffering from poverty-related issues. AIDS is a huge problem, but so is malaria, hunger & lack of drinking water.

While Africa needs to be responsible for its own people, its own needs, years of inconsistent policy towards the continent and mismanagement by often corrupt governments has left many of the countries there the poorest in the world and in dire need of relief. The most obvious is debt cancellation. Every year the poorest countries in the world pay the richest billions of dollars in interest on loans they may never be able to pay back. This instead of combating disease and hunger, providing education and infrastructure that would might allow them to pull themselves out of the tailspin that is everyday life.

$40 billion dollars will erase the debt of 18 countries that have met their millennium goals for government effectiveness; another $56 billion would help 32 other countries nearing their goals. The US has balked at joining this international effort, citing Bush's solid record of help in Africa so far. For the United States $100 billion is four months interest on our current, Bush-created, national debt. It is also about one year of military spending on a failed war in Iraq. Remember too that poor countries, with nothing to loose and little respect for a world which ignores them, can become welcome breeding grounds for terrorists pushed out of the Middle East by our heroic democracy train, so there is compelling national security interests as well. Talk about your erring on the side of life. And while fighting the war on terra is hard work, so is saving lives.