A new report warns of the possible link between AIDS orphans and future terrorists. The report was presented at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.
The Global Business Coalition on HIV/AIDS says, “It is undeniable that AIDS, and the deadly conflicts that have ravaged Africa, have created a steady stream of orphans that can be exploited and used for terrorist activities.”
The report says evidence can be found in the many child soldiers. It says, “Hundreds of thousands of children as young as 10 years old have been forced to fight in Angola, Ethiopia, Uganda, Sierra Leone, Rwanda, Sudan, Congo and other African countries.” It says, “In Liberia, children have been forced to wear wigs and women’s dresses in an effort to confuse opposing fighters.”
The report – AIDS, Economics and Terrorism in Africa – warns, “The use of children to commit terrorist acts is not new. The Islamic Jihad has been running schools to teach children how to become suicide bombers.”
Among those praising the coalition’s findings is Albina du Boisrouvray, founder of the FXB Foundation, which cares for AIDS orphans around the world.
"We’ve been lobbying very actively, relentlessly, to the past 10 years to make this link between the growing number of AIDS orphans and terrorism," she says.
It’s estimated there are about 13 million AIDS orphans in sub-Saharan Africa. Ms. du Boisrouvray believes the actual figure is much higher than UN estimates. She says when a credible organization raises the issue of AIDS orphans and terrorists people in power will listen.
She says, "So when a group like the Global Business Coalition brings this forward in a report and speaks at Davos, where all the shakers and the decision makers and the big money givers are there – at last they put something that we’ve been trying to really raise as a very urgent issue to be put on the agenda of governments."
She agrees with the coalition’s findings that AIDS orphans are vulnerable for exploitation by terrorists.
"You’re going to have these little kids in order to survive will go to anybody who’ll take them in and turn them into human bombs," she says.
The Global Business Coalition on HIV/AIDS says, however, there is hope. It writes, “While the link between AIDS, economics and terrorism is a clear and emerging threat, it is not one without solutions. AIDS is a preventable disease.”
It calls on the United States and other donors to increase their investment in the fight against the disease. President Bush has proposed increased funding this year for his five year, $15 billion emergency plan for AIDS relief, known as PEPFAR.
The coalition also recommends a stronger emphasis on prevention, guaranteed equitable access to treatment and addressing the “underlying reasons for the epidemic, such as poverty and gender inequality.”