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U.S. donates $56 million for HIV nutrition in Ethiopia

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The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) has welcomed a US$56 million donation from the United States President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) that will dramatically increase resources for programmes in Ethiopia providing vital nutrition assistance to people living with HIV (PLHIV). This donation, the largest ever from PEPFAR, will offer a critical boost to WFP’s HIV and AIDS activities in Ethiopia.

“Providing the right nutritional support for HIV patients can make the difference between life and death,” said WFP Executive Director Josette Sheeran, “Because when malnourished patients don’t have the right food to eat, treatment doesn’t work. This generous donation from PEPFAR will allow WFP to reach more people, improving the productive lives of those with HIV, helping to prevent its transference to infants, and helping families and communities with sustainable food security.”

With PEPFAR’s generous contribution, in addition to the areas previously covered, WFP will work in Ethiopia’s least developed regions—Afar, Benishangul Gumuz, Somali and Gambella—to improve the nutritional status, treatment success and quality of life of PLHIV. It will enhance their food and economic security, support children vulnerable to HIV and contribute to the prevention of mother-to-child transmission.

WFP’s current HIV and AIDS activities support treatment in urban areas throughout the country, including assessments, counselling and food assistance for those who are malnourished. They take a sustainable approach, which also emphasizes social safety nets and economic activities for affected households. From 2008 to 2010, these activities reached 355,000 people affected by HIV and AIDS in 23 towns. PEPFAR’s donation will allow WFP to reach, nationwide, an additional 375,000 vulnerable people over five years.

Food and nutrition assistance is an essential and cost-effective means of enhancing the success of antiretroviral treatment (ART), enabling nutritional recovery and mitigating the socio-economic consequences of HIV and tuberculosis (TB). Furthermore, this type of assistance increases the likelihood that patients will adhere to treatment, thereby reducing the likelihood that additional, more costly treatments will need to be found.

“We’ve seen that HIV patients who are malnourished when they start their treatment are much more likely to die than well-nourished patients,” said Martin Bloem, WFP’s chief of Nutrition and HIV/AIDS Policy. “By collaborating with PEPFAR, we can ensure that beneficiaries in Ethiopia are in a good position to return to healthy, productive lives.”

In 2010, WFP supported 2.5 million beneficiaries in 47 countries through its HIV and TB programmes, including food and nutritional support to some 500,000 PLHIV as part of their ART or TB treatment. By providing the right foods at the right time, WFP strives to maximize the success of its investments in individuals and communities.

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Corruption Watch

The bad news is that corruption has not only sustained but has grown in size and stature in the country. With scams being a regular feature, seventy per cent respondents in a survey have rightfully opined that corruption has continued to increase in India. One in every two interviewed admit having paid a bribe for availing public services during last one year. Transparency International's latest survey reveals that the political parties top the chart for the most corrupt public institutions, followed by police force and legislatures. No wonder, India continues to make new records on the global corruption arena!

The shocking revelation is that the health and education sectors haven't remained untouched by this phenomenon. With 5th and 6th positions respectively for these sectors on the public perception chart on corruption, corruption has crept insidiously into these sectors of hope for the masses. With bureaucracy being fourth in the list of corrupt institutions in the country, corruption seems to have been non-formally institutionalized with little hope if public services would ever be effective in the country. With economic growth having literally institutionalized corruption, are we now expecting corrupt to be socially responsible - a different CSR.

Poor. Who?

Not giving 'aid' to India is one thing but calling it 'rich' is quite another. If one in three of the world's malnourished children live in India, what does average daily income of $3 indicate? It perhaps means that there is a relative decline in poverty - people are 'less poor' than what they used to be in the past. But having crossed the World Bank arbitrary threshold of $2 a day does not absolve the 'developed' countries of their obligation to part with 0.7 per cent of their Gross National Income in development aid. Should this three-decade old figure not be revised?  

An interesting debate in UK's House of Commons delved on future of development assistance by the British Government. While prioritizing limited resources has been a concern, there has been no denying the fact that development aid must be guided towards tangible gains over a short period of time to start with. There are difficult choices for elected governments to make - should they invest in long-term primary education or in short-term university scholarships? Which of these will bring gains and trigger long-term transformation in the society. As politicians continue to be divided on the matter, poverty persists!!   

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