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Opinions: Haitian Rebuilding; Nuclear State Vaccine Initiatives; HIV Rights Abuses In China; HIV Vaccine

Post-Earthquake Recovery In Haiti ‘Stalled’

The “paltry scale of the Pentagon’s reconstruction endeavor [in Haiti] — 1.6 million people displaced and the American military is contributing a few classrooms? — is emblematic of the international response,” columnist Dana Milbank writes in a Washington Post opinion piece.

“Only 2 percent of promised reconstruction aid has been delivered. Only 2 percent of the rubble has been cleared. And not quite 2 percent of the dislocated have been moved into housing. Others live under fraying tarps and tents in a situation that Bill Clinton, spearheading the reconstruction campaign, calls ‘horribly frustrating.’ Obama administration officials and aid groups point out, correctly, that much of the holdup comes from the Haitian government, which had little competence even before the quake,” writes Milbank, who details the Pentagon’s involvement in the relief effort, based on responses from a teleconference Monday.

“The military isn’t even trying to pick up the pace. After its heavy response to the earthquake, the Pentagon is devoting all of $1.7 million for its ‘New Horizons-Haiti’ mission to build schools and a few medical facilities. … Seems Haiti may be stuck at 2 percent for a while longer” (7/13).

U.S. To Help Haitians, International Community ‘Rebuild Haiti Better’

U.S. Ambassador to Haiti Kenneth Merten notes U.S. efforts to rebuild Haiti since the January 12 earthquake and highlights the remaining work in a Miami Herald opinion piece.

“USAID and the U.S. military have taken steps to protect camps against flooding; U.S.-sponsored cash-for-work rubble-removal programs currently employ more than 20,000 Haitians from the camps as well as residents who remain in their quake-ravaged neighborhoods; and the USAID-sponsored PHARE program is working to rebuild schools destroyed in the quake. Even with such dedicated work in place, we can see six months after the earthquake that it will take much more to rebuild Haiti,” he writes, noting the work of the Interim Haiti Recovery Commission and the U.S. two-year $1.1 billion pledge “to help Haiti build back better.”

“[T]here is a consensus among Haitians and international partners alike to invest the money and time to rebuild Haiti better,” Merten writes (7/12).

Ongoing Effort Required For Successful Haiti Recovery

In a New York Times opinion piece, Interim Haiti Reconstruction Commission co-chairs Jean-Max Bellerive, the prime minister of Haiti, and former U.S. President Bill Clinton recount the commission’s work over the last six months and the remaining challenges. “[H]as the reconstruction process been as quick and as far-reaching as many of us had hoped? No, not when so many Haitians remain homeless, hungry and unemployed. Has progress been made? Unequivocally, yes. But we must — all of us involved in Haiti’s recovery — do better,” they write.

Bellerive and Clinton note that “to date, only 10 percent of the $5.3 billion pledged by governments at a United Nations conference in March has been disbursed to the Haitian government.” They call for the “partnership and cooperation of the World Bank. … to ensure that money pledged by governments and their taxpayers around the world is delivered quickly.” The participation of NGOs, businesses, government departments and “everyone involved” is critical for the success of the “overall effort,” they write (7/9).

Nuclear States Should Focus On Vaccine Development

“[T]he world’s nuclear weapons states are now dominated by low- and middle-income countries, which also suffer from crushing poverty and horrific levels of endemic tropical diseases,” Peter Hotez, president of the Sabin Vaccine Institute, in a Ottawa Citizen opinion piece. “[N]uclear weapon states have spent an estimated 10,000 times more on building nuclear weapons than on developing new drugs and vaccines for their indigenous neglected tropical diseases,” he writes, adding that the fact was “conspicuous by its absence” from a Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty meeting in May.

The piece notes that Brazil, which “abandoned its nuclear weapons program in the 1990s,” today “produces most of its own vaccines” and is developing more. “At a minimum,” he concludes, “the world’s very first nuclear weapons states, the U.S., Russia, England, and France, should promote vaccine diplomacy through future Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty reviews, new international summits and treaties, and through agreements with the most impoverished nuclear weapons states. … Such actions would lead to life-saving technologies ultimately leading to the global elimination of the most disabling and devastating neglected tropical diseases” (7/12).

China Should Be Held Accountable For Holding Back HIV Prevention, Treatment Efforts 

In a Los Angeles Times opinion piece, Joe Amon, director of health and human rights at Human Rights Watch, points to Chinese government “discrimination and abuse” of HIV/AIDS activists and organizations. He charges that the international donor community has failed to hold China accountable for its actions. “On paper, the Chinese government has laws and policies that are protective of the rights of an estimated 700,000 people living with HIV in the country. In practice, these policies are frequently undermined by the actions of police and public security forces, who round up ‘undesirables’ such as sex workers and drug users and intimidate and censor civil society organizations working to expand HIV outreach,” Amon writes.

While acknowledging that China has made “some strides against AIDS,” Amon says some of the $1 billion in HIV funding from the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria donations have been used to support compulsory drug detention centers, where patients report high rates of abuse. He also calls on the Global Fund to “speak out publicly about the harassment of Chinese AIDS activists and work with other donors to announce an end of funding for detention center programs. Funding efforts to keep people from being locked up, by expanding community-based drug dependency treatment, legal services and outreach to drug users — not typically understood as ‘health’ interventions — would save more lives.”

“The International AIDS Conference focuses this year on human rights because abuses fuel the HIV epidemic. Governments and donors must dedicate themselves to ensuring that support for human rights is central to their response to AIDS,” Amon concludes (7/11).

Time To Increase Investment In HIV Vaccine Development

Ahead of the International AIDS Conference in Vienna, Austria, July 18-23, Seth Berkley, president and CEO of the International AIDS Vaccine Initiative, and Alan Bernstein, executive director of Global HIV Vaccine Enterprise call for greater investment to be made towards the development of an HIV vaccine in an International Herald Tribune opinion piece that appeared in the print edition.

After reflecting on the growing number of people worldwide living with HIV/AIDS, Berkley and Bernstein describe several challenges that have slowed HIV vaccine development, including the complexity of the virus itself and what the authors call “inadequate support for research. … The cost of providing treatment to even the one-third of people who need it today is more than $10 billion per year. But the amount spent on the entire global effort to develop and test HIV vaccines was only about $800 million last year – 10 percent less than 2007 funding. That’s not enough to get the job done.”

To increase support, “make the search for an HIV vaccine a truly global effort,” the authors write. “Today, a handful of funders led by the U.S. government pay for the bulk of global HIV vaccine research. But HIV/AIDS is a global problem, and it demands a global solution. Current funders must continue their strong support, but other countries must also come to the table” (7/8).