War declared on Aids and TB

Click to follow
The Independent Online

The leaders of the Group of Eight nations will conclude their much-criticised summit meeting in Okinawa by adopting a British initiative to reduce deaths from Aids by one quarter over the next decade.

The leaders of the Group of Eight nations will conclude their much-criticised summit meeting in Okinawa by adopting a British initiative to reduce deaths from Aids by one quarter over the next decade.

The commitment, which also aims to halve deaths from TB and malaria, will save as many as 28 million lives if it is successfully put into practice. Campaign groups and non-governmental organisations, which have been scathing about the G8's failure to keep its promises on debt relief, welcomed the announcement which will form part of the summit communiqué to be delivered today by Yoshiro Mori, the Japanese prime minister.

"The action to tackle the issue of health is as important as anything else," Mr Blair said yesterday. "If we cannot cure these appalling diseases that are killing thousands of people every day in Africa, then it is going to be very difficult, no matter how much aid and money we put in, for these countries to take advantage of them."

TB and malaria are easily treatable and the lives of those carrying the HIV virus can be extended for decades with a cocktail of anti-viral drugs. But the expense of the treatments, combined with the physical difficulties of delivering them to poor rural areas are decimating countries such as Zaire, Botswana and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Five million people die every year from the three diseases, according to the charity, Médécins Sans Frontiÿres, a figure that could rise as high as 10 million if the problem is not addressed. The G8's initiative will be co-ordinated by the World Health Organisation and will include efforts to make the treatments more widely available in the Third World.

Britain will increase its aid spending on treatment drugs for infectious diseases from £50m to £100m a year. "The Prime Minister emphasised that this isn't just a social and moral imperative, but in our own best economic interests that we help build prosperity in Africa," said Mr Blair's spokesman.

The announcement goes some of the way to redeeming the great disappointment of the summit - the failure to carry out promises at last year's G8 to bring $100bn of debt relief to 24 of the world's poorest countries. The British, French and Canadian leaders raised the issue yesterday after the leaders' token efforts to accelerate debt reduction on Friday were condemned by campaign groups.

The closing statement will promise to remove trade tariffs in order to give poor countries greater access to the markets for the big economic powers. "I'd be enormously pleased if they put all of these measures on disease into effect," said Henry Northover, of the Catholic charity, Cafod. "But unless they address the problem of poverty, education and poor infrastructure, they'll be over-reaching themselves."

Lesser agreements include conferences on the drugs trade and on diamonds. The G8 nations will also promise to tighten regulations on illegally logged timber - a victory for Greenpeace, whose ship, The Rainbow Warrior, has been seized by Japanese police.

The star of the summit was Vladimir Putin, the Russian president, who explaned his plans for economic reform in Russia. He arrived from a visit to North Korea's leader, Kim Jong II, who promised to abandon his country's missile programme in return for foreign assistance in carrying out a civilian rocket programme.

The announcement was intended to foil American plans for a Star Wars-style missile defence shield, intended to protect the US from ballistic missile attack from "rogue states" such as North Korea.

Comments