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International donors pledged $3.7 billion on Tuesday to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria, only half the amount the body says it needs to meet its goals for the next two years. The pledges, made just a week before a United Nations summit focused on reducing world poverty, disappointed aid groups.
"We need $7.1 billion for 2006 and 2007, and we leave with $3.7 billion guaranteed," Richard Feachem, chief of the Global Fund, told reporters after a two-day donor conference. "This is a solid step in the right direction, but the gap has got to be filled. If it isn't, there's no prospect of fulfilling goals agreed at the G8."
The G8 group of industrialized nations agreed in July to replenish the fund and ensure universal access to HIV treatment by 2010. It also promised to double aid to developing countries, boosting it by about $50 billion a year by 2010.
The Global Fund, dreamed up by U.N. secretary-general Kofi Annan, was established as an independent conduit for rich nations' aid to tackle the three diseases, which together kill about 6 million people each year. The fund has committed $3.5 billion to 300 programs in 127 countries since it was set up in 2002.
Campaigners, who saw the conference as a test of whether the international community was serious about tackling poverty and disease in developing countries, said the pledges fell drastically short of what was needed. They said new programs had no funding and singled out what they said was a paltry contribution from the United States, which has pledged $600 million for the next two years.
"The world was counting on the United States," said David Bryden of U.S.-based Global AIDS Alliance. "President George W. Bush made an important commitment to fund one third of the fund. By breaking the promise, Bush is letting down the world's most vulnerable people."
Aid groups also criticized Canada and Australia but welcomed larger contributions from the European Union, in particular from Britain, which has doubled its contribution to $184 million next year and the same amount in 2007.
The fund said it expected future pledges from several major donors who say budgetary restraints have prevented them from making firm pledges for the full two-year period.
Another donor conference is planned for June 2006.
The United Nations wants rich countries to spend 0.7% of their national income on aid to realize its Millennium Development Goals of halving the number of people who live on less than $1 a day and slow the spread of AIDS. Washington objects to any commitment to raising foreign aid to a specific level. (Reuters)