CNS News22

Caribbean / African Report


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26 JUNE 2001



Traditional indigenous attire of a Mayan woman from the Quiche region of Guatemala. 



United Nations, June 26, 2001 (CNS NEWS)

The Government of Canada is strengthening its response to the global HIV/AIDS epidemic. 
Maria Minna, Canada's Minister for International Cooperation, has announced that 
the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) is committing over $73 million to fight HIV/AIDS in developing countries.

The Minister made the announcement while attending the United Nations General Assembly Special Session on HIV/AIDS.

"Canada is acting to help stop this disease from ravaging the developing world," Minister Minna said. " We must increase education and prevention while ensuring that those who are now living with HIV/AIDS have access to care."

$44.6 million will be used for initiatives in Africa, $20 million in the Americas, $1.8 million in Asia and $6.7 million in Central and Eastern Europe. 

The programming includes e
nhanced support to HIV/AIDS in the Caribbean:  - $20 million for 5 years to the Carribean Epidemiology Centre, CARICOM and other regional organizations for work in Pan-Caribbean countries (Commonwealth Caribbean, Haiti, and Dominican Republic) that will support advocacy, policy development and legislation, care and support for people living with HIV/AIDS, the prevention of HIV transmission with a focus on young people, prevention among especially vulnerable groups, and prevention of mother to child transmission.

UN AIDS conference opens

United Nations - The United Nations today opened a high-level conference to combat AIDS, the disease killing five million adults a year and creating a generation of orphans. Declaring AIDS had wiped out a decade of progress in some areas, U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan called on the world to speak frankly about the disease that has already killed 22 million people. The meeting is being attended by presidents, prime ministers, and health ministers. It runs for three days with a myriad of side events and 3,000 activists, health experts, business leaders and AIDS victims descending on New York for the conference.

Denzil L. Douglas, the Prime Minister of St. Kitts and Nevis, said it was regrettable that "institutions and private foundations that pledged to assist the countries in Africa did not appear to have recognized the seriousness of the situation in the Caribbean." He pointed out that there were 360,000 people living with HIV/AIDS in the region. "In the face of this phenomenon, Caribbean countries have been both steadfast and proactive," he said. However, like the countries in Africa, Caribbean States had little access to antiretroviral medicines to fight AIDS. The disease, he said, "should force us to accept that in the struggle to preserve the fabric of our humanity, we must work together to solve this problem."

The Prime Minister of the Bahamas, Hubert A. Ingraham, expressed strong support for the establishment of the Global Fund, while voicing concern that small developing countries which did not have UN agencies located in their territories might have trouble accessing the resources. "I wish also to sound a cautionary note that we not place all our eggs in one basket," he added. "While we recognize that the Fund must assist in drug acquisition, it is critically important that the urgency of the need for affordable anti-retroviral drugs required for the treatment of HIV/AIDS, and effective drugs for TB and malaria, not result in a disproportionate skew of the assets of the Fund to the supply of drugs."

Grenada government closes six more offshore banks

St. George's, Grenada - The Grenada government has revoked the licences of six more offshore banks operating in the country. A statement in the weekend Press names the banks as Anglo-American Limited, Rahab Trust and Management company, Wellington Bank and Trust, Caribbean Merchant Bank, Crown Meridian Bank and Bern Savings. The brief statement from Finance Minister Anthony Boatswain did not give reasons for closing the banks, but the action is seen as part of a continuing drive by the government to clean up the sector.

Opposition surprised over transfer to mental home

Port of Spain, Trinidad - Trinidad and Tobago's main opposition party says it was surprised by a decision to move an ex-minister on a murder charge from his cell at a maximum security prison to a mental institution. Former government minister Dhanraj Singh, who is on a murder charge, is expected to be removed from his cell this week and taken to a mental institution on the order of National Security Minister Basdeo Panday, who is also the country's prime minister. "I am very surprised at that move," said Opposition Leader Patrick Manning. "It appears to us that (Singh) was in the custody of the courts. Therefore, those decisions are to be made by the courts," said Manning, who admitted he was not certain what the laws state.


Jamaican police hold suspects in priest's murder

Kingston, Jamaica - Police in Jamaica are questioning two suspects in connection with last week's murder of Roman Catholic Priest, Father Martin Royacres. The Annotto Bay police who are investigating the killing confirmed  yesterday that they had two men in custody, both residents of the fishing and banana production town. An investigator said police had not yet charged them as they were continuing their investigations which could lead them to someone "higher up."


Trinidad financial group plans big US investment

Port of Spain, Trinidad - The Trinidad and Tobago-based CL Financial Group plans to invest US$2 billion in real estate redevelopment projects in Florida over the next 10 years spanning hotels, homes and commercial properties, a report in the Florida Sun-Sentinel has said. On the intracoastal waterway, it has plans to develop Palazzo Las Olas, a $75 million Mediterranean-style residential and retail complex, the paper reported last week. The privately held company wants to diversify from the Caribbean and sees opportunities in Broward, an area Chairman Lawrence Duprey describes as "less crowded than Miami ... with real estate still at a reasonable price."

Barbados bans meat imports from Uruguay

Bridgetown, Barbados - The Barbados government is no longer issuing import permits for fresh meat and meat products from Uruguay following an outbreak of food and mouth disease in that country. "This ban was put in place immediately upon notification of an outbreak of foot and mouth disease that occurred in that country within the past few months," a weekend Government Information Service (GIS) release said. Senior Veterinary Officer, Dr. Trevor King said that given the ease with which the disease is spread, it was necessary to implement a total ban on the importation of such products.


Fewer deportees to Jamaica last year

Kingston, Jamaica - Jamaica received 16.5 per cent fewer deportees from the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom last year than it did in 1999, according to the latest Economic and Social Survey of Jamaica, published by the Planning Institute of Jamaica (PIOJ). The publication stated that 1,730 persons were deported here last year. This was 341 below the number of Jamaicans deported the previous year. The figure of 2,071 persons deported here in 1999 was also 4.2 per cent below the 1998 figure of 2,161, the publication noted. Most deportees to Kingston came from the United States, which was responsible for 1,274 of the total for 2000.


President Jagdeo promises better deal for Linden

Georgetown, Guyana - In the aftermath of clashes between police and civilians, President Bharrat Jagdeo visited the mining town of Linden on Sunday - and promised residents a better deal. The visit, during which Jagdeo met with the towns people, followed a protest last Thursday by Lindeners against poverty, lack of employment and other problems in the town, located some 65 miles outside the capital, Georgetown. Riot Police were sent from Georgetown late Thursday after some protesters reportedly stoned police and the lawmen responded by firing teargas.





"We shall keep in mind the Akan saying which I learned in my youth, and which sums up so well the spirit of democracy as Africans understand it: Etii baaku enko edjina!  One head alone is not enough to decide!"


Kofi Annan, in his address to the Fourth International Conference of New and Restored Democracies, Cotonou, Benin, 1 December 2000

World leaders address UN special session on AIDS
25 June As the United Nations
special session on AIDS got under way in New York this morning, the General Assembly - the UN's main legislative and deliberative body -- heard impassioned calls for action from heads of State and Government who addressed the Assembly's plenary meeting.

In the course of three plenary meetings running from morning through late evening, the Assembly was scheduled to hear over 70 speakers, including heads of State and government, health ministers and other high-level officials.

Omar Bongo, the President of Gabon, said drugs to treat AIDS must be made available to all, and the proposed Global AIDS and Health Fund must be made operational as soon as possible. "Small pox has disappeared, polio is vanishing; AIDS must also go," he said. If all acted in unity to combat the scourge, he said, "for once in history the word solidarity will have taken on its full meaning."

Offering the perspective of one of the countries most devastated by the disease, the President of Botswana, Festus Mogae, stressed that funds were needed for voluntary counselling and testing, assistance to AIDS support groups, scientific research for AIDS drugs and vaccines, improved access to drugs, and ensuring "that the fight against HIV/AIDS does not come at the cost of sustainable development and improved living standards for developing nations." Welcoming the proposed Fund, the President emphasized that its resources should be disbursed to countries worst-hit by the pandemic.

Senegalese President Abdoulaye Wade said that since the first appearance of AIDS in Senegal in 1986, the Government had been making serious efforts to fight the disease. As a result, the AIDS prevalence rate was only 2 per cent. At the same time, he pointed out that the exhorbitant cost of medicines to treat AIDS was "simply immoral and unacceptable." Calling on the special session to take decisive action, he said, "The time to act is now. Tomorrow it will be too late."

Ghana's President, John Agyekum Kufour, recalled that earlier this year at a summit meeting in Abuja, African governments had pledged to allocate at least 15 per cent of their annual budgets to improvements in the health sector to combat the pandemic. "Significant as this initiative is, it must be admitted that it will be inadequate without sustained and concerted international assistance directed at both prevention of the disease and mitigation of its impact," he said. Ghana supported the proposed Global AIDS and Health Fund, which he said should be administered by the UN "with all the urgency and dispatch the crisis commands."

Pascoal Manuel Mocumbi, the Prime Minister of Mozambique, underscored the gender dimensions of the pandemic. "HIV is transmitted through the most intimate and private human relationships, through sexual violence and commercial sex; it proliferates mostly because of women's poverty and inequality," he said, calling for special efforts to help those most vulnerable to the disease. On the proposed Global Fund, he emphasized that "no commitment we declare today will achieve the desired results if adequate resources are not provided consistently and sustained over time."

Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo called attention to the devastating impact of AIDS in Africa. "The future of our continent is bleak, to say the least, and the prospect of extinction of the entire population of a continent looms larger and larger," he said. Africans were looking to the special session with hope, he added, urging participants to help people living with AIDS "to overcome the stigma of society, [so] they can join the crusade against further spread of the killer disease."

Daniel T. arap Moi, President of Kenya, underscored the devastation wrought by AIDS on Africa. "This is a time when the production of coffins is a growing industry because of this dreadful pestilence," he said. On the issue of patent protection for new anti-AIDS medicines, he said it would pose a choice between the human lives and the right of commercial interest. "Human life must surely come before anything else," he said." There will be no question of corporations or individuals making handsome profits at the expense of my people, the people of Africa or at the expense of the sick."

Rwandan President Paul Kagame, said his country was among the worst-hit by HIV/AIDS, with some 400,000 people - out of a total population of 8 million - estimated to be infected. The 1994 genocide, in which untold numbers of women and young girls were systematically raped, was partly to blame for the high prevalence rate. Despite its problems, Rwanda was working to respond to the epidemic, including by purchasing anti-retroviral drugs, and providing them to the public at subsidized rates. He said international efforts should focus on adopting a global strategy that is realistic, practical and effective, particularly in regard to resource mobilization.

Lesotho's Prime Minister, Pakalitha B. Mosisili, said HIV/AIDS had been declared a national disaster in his country. He described the Government's efforts to fight back, which included providing drugs for the treatment of opportunistic infections, adding that Lesotho would "soon reach a decision on the availability and accessibility of anti-retroviral therapy." At the same time, he stressed the country's need for support to strengthen its infrastructure and increase access to drugs.

Alpha Oumar Konare, the President of Mali, said together, AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis were having a devastating impact on Africa. The continent's leaders had confirmed their commitment to combat the scourge. For its part, Mali had launched a broad campaign to fight the disease. Both the Government and civil society were working together to address the problem at the local level. Stressing that no State must be left alone to confront the disease, he called for an international coalition against it.

Also today, the Assembly took a series of procedural votes before adopting, by 62 in favour to none against with 30 abstentions, an amendment adding the name of Karyn Kaplan of the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission to the list of civil society actors who will participate in tomorrow's roundtable on "HIV/AIDS and human rights."

The other three roundtables scheduled for the current session will focus on "HIV/AIDS prevention and care," "Socio-economic impact of HIV/AIDS" and "International funding and cooperation."