U.N. Officials Speaking to Lawmakers Call for Increased Funding for HIV/AIDS, Hunger in AfricaWorld Food Programme Executive Director James Morris, who also serves as U.N. Special Envoy for Humanitarian Needs in Southern Africa, and U.N. Special Envoy for HIV/AIDS in Africa Stephen Lewis yesterday ended a three-day lobbying effort in Washington, D.C., calling for increased funding for food aid needs worldwide as a result of an "unusual convergence" of issues, including the impact of HIV/AIDS in Africa, CongressDaily/AM reports. Morris, whose U.N. agency is based in Rome, testified before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and the House International Relations Committee and made appearances at the National Press Club and the Center for Strategic and International Studies. He concluded his visit with a meeting with President Bush (Hagstrom, CongressDaily/AM, 2/28). Lewis, who this week spoke at a congressional hearing sponsored in part by the United Nations Foundation, and Morris last month visited Southern Africa and "confirmed" that HIV/AIDS is the "central cause of the region's current woes," U.N. Wire reports. Lewis said, "This is a food shortage caused by the [HIV/AIDS] pandemic." Morris said, "A major finding of the recent [trip] was that the 'normal' approaches used by the U.N. to address a short-term crisis situation are not sufficient to deal with the long-term nature of a region gripped by HIV/AIDS" (Fiorill, U.N. Wire, 2/27). Morris said that he was "encouraged" by the Bush administration's efforts, but he added that "we simply have more challenges than normal" (Amosu, AllAfrica.com, 2/27). Lewis said that Bush's pledge of $15 billion over five years is an "extraordinary commitment," but he added that only $10 billion of it is new money and criticized the plan for not being "front-loaded," UN Wire reports. Morris said, "We need to recognize that HIV/AIDS presents us with a new kind of emergency -- one with a slow onset but with consequences potentially more severe than drought or conflict. The international community's response should be swift and dramatic and needs to employ new approaches because of the nature of HIV/AIDS" (U.N. Wire, 2/27).
A kaisernetwork.org HealthCast of Lewis' speech at the briefing is available online. This is part of the Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.