News Release

Five Hundred African Children Die Each Hour as Bush and Blair Fail to Agree on Africa Policy


Reuters is reporting that “Africa can expect compassion but little action when G8 finance ministers meet this week, as no real commitments on slashing debt, doubling aid or making trade concessions will be on the table. … President Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair failed to reach a final agreement on African debt relief or increasing aid when they met on Tuesday, and analysts said finance ministers are unlikely to break new ground.”

The director of the United Nations Human Development Report Office, Kevin Watkins, wrote in an op-ed published today in the International Herald Tribune: “[I]f current trends continue over the next decade … there will be [an estimated] three million more child deaths in 2015 than there would be if the [U.N.] millennium target were met. By 2015 sub-Saharan Africa will account for two in every three child deaths in the world. … Currently, poverty-related diseases claim the lives of 500 African children each hour — and the numbers are going up.”

Salih Booker, executive director of Africa Action, said today: “Today’s announcement from the White House on new aid to Africa is a sham. The amount of money proposed ($674 million) is meager compared to what debt cancellation would enable African countries to do for themselves. Furthermore, this is not a new commitment — this money has already been approved by Congress. … [Moreover], the initiatives on foreign assistance and on HIV/AIDS in Africa, touted by the President in [yesterday’s] briefing cover only a select few African countries and remain severely underfunded compared both to the need and to the original promises announced by the White House.”

Ann-Louise Colgan, director of policy analysis and communications at Africa Action, said today: “Both Bush and Blair claim a commitment to addressing Africa’s challenges, but the sad reality is that their current agenda promotes ‘compassionate showmanship’ over sea-change in Africa policy. If these leaders’ pledges on Africa are to be taken seriously, they must cancel Africa’s debts, greatly increase their funding to fight HIV/AIDS, fulfill their previous promises on trade-related reforms, and support multilateral efforts to promote peace and security in Africa, with the immediate priority of ending the genocide in Darfur.”

Marie Clarke Brill, director of public education and mobilization at Africa Action, said: “Unless Africa’s debts are canceled, all new aid will simply flow back out of Africa in the form of debt service payments.”
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Watkins, national coordinator of the Jubilee USA Network, said today: “Both leaders, Bush and Blair, referred to proposals for 100 percent debt cancellation today, but it cannot be called 100 percent cancellation if it does not include debts owed by impoverished nations to the IMF, which represents 30 percent of the debt service payments the most impoverished nations will pay over the next five years.” Last week, the Jubilee USA Network sent a letter signed by more than two dozen religious leaders in support of selling IMF gold to finance such a move.
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President of TransAfrica Forum, Fletcher said today: “President Bush has remained adamant that he will not meet the economic demands that Prime Minister Blair correctly insists are necessary if the chronic crises in Africa are to be addressed and its redevelopment ensured. The release of $650 million in already appropriated funds compared with the actual ability of the U.S. government to come forward with genuine support is insulting. Compare these funds with what the Bush administration has expended on the illegal war and occupation of Iraq. … The state of Israel receives more aid from the USA than does the entire continent of Africa. How can such an imbalance be morally justified?”
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For more information, contact at the Institute for Public Accuracy:
Sam Husseini, (202) 347-0020; or David Zupan, (541) 484-9167