Statement: Keep Americas Promise to Africa on HIV/AIDS Funding, September 16, 2003
Most Rev. John H. Ricard, S.S.J.
Chairman, International Policy Committee
United States Conference of Catholic Bishops
September 16, 2003
As former President of the Catholic Relief Services and now head of the Bishops' International Policy Committee, I have been to almost every country in Africa, some several times. I have seen the faces of AIDS and grinding poverty. I have also seen how these faces of despair can be transformed into signs of hope by effective aid programs.
Through Catholic Relief Services and many other programs, the Catholic Church has long served the neediest people in Africa and elsewhere, including one in four people who suffer from HIV/AIDS. No one can have any doubt about the urgency of the need. The United States is the richest nation on earth. It is a scandal that we are the last among industrialized nations in per capita spending on development assistance for the poorest countries.
Now is the time to fund fully the Presidents global health initiative and the Millennium Challenge Account. Full funding for effective, morally appropriate health programs and an MCA that is focused on the poorest countries would make a huge difference in the lives of millions of people. We should be able to come up with these funds now -- and not at the expense of existing humanitarian and development programs.
We credit President Bush for his commitment to address the global health crisis and the scandal of global poverty. We must redeem these promises without delay. The millions who are dying of HIV/AIDS, malaria, contaminated water, and malnutrition cannot wait. Meeting these commitments is not just a question of dollars, but of ethical responsibility and national credibility. Falling short will diminish us as a nation, and will allow more death and disease, and hunger and deprivation among the poorest people on earth.