US Must Boost Aid to Poor

by Nathaniel Batchelder
The Sunday Oklahoman, 7/3/05

Representatives of the G-8 nations – developed countries in a position to radically alter world poverty – will meet in Scotland this week to discuss collaboration on global issues. They have a chance to implement simple and cost-effective policies that will save millions of lives, restore hope to the poorest people in the world and actually enhance global security.

Some 29,000 people, mostly children, die every day from preventable diseases and malnutrition – that’s 11 million needless deaths every year. These challenges can be addressed for shockingly small amounts of money.

Vitamin A, for example, can be provided to an infant or child at a cost of 6 cents per year. Tuberculosis, which kills 2 million people a year, can be treated with antibiotics costing $10 per patient. Universal immunizations of children are possible with medicines costing less than $1 per child.

Malaria is best prevented with bed netting that costs less than $7. Programs implemented in Uganda demonstrate that infection rates from HIV/AIDS can be drastically reduced through programs calling for both behavior changes and the use of condoms.

Studies funded by the CIA have found that nations with the highest child death rates are at the greatest risk for political upheaval and revolution. In such chaos, border security collapses and the society becomes a haven for revolutionaries and terrorists.

Former Secretary of State Colin Powell identified global poverty and the diseases of AIDS, TB and malaria as threats to global and U.S. national security. Addressing such suffering with cost-effective policies is not only the right thing to do, it’s a step toward a more secure world.

Economist Jeffrey Sachs, author of “The End of Poverty: Economic Possibilities for Our Time,” recently participated in a conference call with the U.S. journalists to highlight the opportunities before the G-8 Summit. Sachs said 2005 is a “make or break year” for achieving the Millennium Development Goals.

These are international goals agreed upon by the world’s governments in September 2000 at the Millennium Assembly at the United Nations. They call for quantified progress reducing all areas of extreme poverty by the year 2015, including hunger, child survival, maternal survival, AIDS, tuberculosis, malaria, safe drinking water, sanitation, and so on.

Achieving these goals, Sachs said, will require a greatly increased level of investment in impoverished people’s health, education, nutrition, their environments, soils, water, habitats and infrastructure, including roads, power, Internet connectivity and telecommunications. With these investments, he said, the poorest of the poor, who suffer from an extremely low level of productivity, can become productive members of the world economy.

Signers to the Millennium Development Goals, including the U.S., agreed in 2002 to a consensus that states, “We urge developed countries that have not done so to make concrete efforts towards the target of0.7percent of gross national products official development assistance to developing countries.”

Reaching the goal of 0.7 percent of GNP has become an official commitment of the European Union, which has already achieved allocation levels of 0.4 percent of GNP. The U.S. lags behind other developed countries, still allocating only 0.16 percent of GNP toward this historic effort. And America has no official plan or timetable for increasing its allocations to meet its state commitments.

The U.S. must promise allocations in support of the Millennium Development Goals in line with those of other developed countries to alleviate the scourge of preventable disease