In the time it will take to read this article, 12 people will be killed. They will be murdered not by a gun or a knife, but instead, they will become the most recent of victims of the developed world’s apathy toward the AIDS crisis in Africa.Every 10 seconds someone dies from AIDS in Africa. Most of the people dying are between the ages of 20 and 50. They are often the heads of households and the sources of economic security for their families.
When these adults die, the children and the elderly are left alone. Many times they cannot provide for themselves. There are more than 12 million children in Africa who have been orphaned because of AIDS. Ninety-five percent of the world’s AIDS orphans live in Africa. With more than 3 million people in Africa dying every year from AIDS, these problems have no end in sight. The governments of these countries often have neither the resources nor infrastructures to combat this disaster.
These facts are startling and disturbing. We read them or see a TV special about the epidemic, and we are temporarily saddened. But then we move on with our lives. We complain about food at The Main, forgetting there are millions of orphans who may not have food. We worry about catching the cold sweeping though our dorm, but overlook the 8,500 people who contract HIV every day in Africa.
We are not obligated to help. No one will make us donate time or money to save these people. Does this mean we shouldn’t worry about it? Should we assume what’s happening over there will never affect us here?
The U.S. government seems to think so. The United States spends 0.16 percent of its budget on foreign aid. Less than 1 percent of that aid is spent in sub-Sahara Africa, one of the poorest places on Earth.
If no one steps in to remedy this problem, the number of orphans is projected to reach 40 million by 2010. This will lead to unimaginable socioeconomic problems for the countries affected.
It will also affect America. We have seen what has happened in Afghanistan when it was abandoned by the developed world; it fell into the hands of terrorists and was a place of unimaginable poverty and social disorder. We must prevent this from happening to countries in Africa for both their well-being and ours.
In 1984, many high profile celebrities collaborated in an Ethiopian famine relief effort called Band Aid. They sang “Do They Know It’s Christmas” and raised more than $16 million. As the holiday season approaches 21 years later, has anything changed? Yes, but for the worse. Now instead of 1 million Ethiopians, 3.1 million Africans are dying each year. They aren’t soldiers who signed up to fight, or rebels killing for a cause. They are private citizens and they are defenseless against the disease taking their lives.
Americans often brag about being a part of the best country in the world. We are proud of America’s world leadership. So isn’t it time to help save the world we claim to lead?
Sarah Kunst is sophomore fashion merchandising major from Mount Pleasant, Mich.