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Supporters of UN Programs Gather at Local Events Across US


People across the United States are gathering at scores of local events to highlight international efforts to tackle infectious diseases. The meetings are part of a celebration marking the 62nd anniversary of the United Nations. Organizers say attendance shows the depth of support for the U.N., despite polls showing many of Americans have an unfavorable view of the world body. Steve Mort reports for VOA from one of the events in Florida.

There is music and dancing from around the world at a college in Daytona Beach, Florida. This event celebrates the U.N.'s birthday and its work fighting disease is organized by the local chapter of the United Nations Association of the United States of America -- known as UNA-USA.

The president of the group's Daytona chapter, Rick Kennedy, says members believe the U.S. must remain engaged within the world body. "We have to protect our own interests. But there are an awful lot of people that we have to have good relationships with, and the United Nations is one way to do that," he said.

The United Nations' target of reversing the spread of HIV-AIDS, malaria and other infectious diseases by 2015 is the theme of the Daytona Beach event.

In sub-Saharan Africa, 25 million people were living with HIV in 2006, according to United Nations statistics and a total of 40 million worldwide.

The U.S., for its part, doubled its contribution to AIDS relief to $30 billion in May. The United States Agency for International Development, or USAID, says America is providing anti-retroviral treatment for 2 million people with HIV-AIDS, and care for 10 million including children.

And in 2005, President Bush announced a $1.2 billion, five-year initiative to reduce malaria deaths by 50 percent. USAID says malaria kills at least one million infants and children under age 5 every year.

But UNA-USA supporter and International Relations Professor Dorcas McCoy says the United States should do more to help the U.N. tackle disease. "I do not think the United States is doing enough, either domestically nor internationally," said McCoy. "The statistics of the number of people dying and those who are not living quality lives - it is completely unacceptable".

UNA-USA, which supports the work of the U.N. in areas such as humanitarian aid and peacekeeping, says it has more than 20,000 members.

But a nationwide survey finds support for the U.N. has eroded significantly in America over the past several years. The Rasmussen Poll reported in 2006, just 31 percent of those responding had a favorable opinion of the world body.

Some video Courtesy of UNICEF

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