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G8 Renew Aid Pledges for Africa; Activists Say Not Enough


Leaders of the G8 group of wealthy industrial nations pledged $60 billion to fight AIDS and malaria in Africa. Aid activists welcome the help, but say it is not enough. VOA's Sonja Pace reports from near the summit site at Heiligendamm in Germany.

In their summit statement, issued Friday, G8 leaders reaffirmed their commitment to help the developing world, including a pledge of $60 billion to fight killer diseases such as AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis in Africa. Half of that amount is to come from the United States.

The leaders renewed commitments made two years ago at a G8 summit in Gleneagles, Scotland, which focused largely on the developing world and Africa in particular.

Speaking at the Heiligendamm summit, after meeting with visiting African leaders, host German Chancellor Angela Merkel reaffirmed the G8's commitment to help.

"The G8 is aware of the commitments made and we will live up to them," she promised. Mrs. Merkel also said both the G8 and African countries had to live up to certain expectations - these, she said were discussed in Friday morning's session.

Those sentiments were echoed by Ghanaian President John Kufuor, who spoke on behalf of the group of African nations.

"Africa expects the G8 to deliver and promises, on Africa's part, we are committed to also delivering," he said.

Africa's commitment in this is to fight corruption and work for proper governance and democracy.

British Prime Minister Tony Blair said the deal does represent progress.

"There's a $60 billion commitment on help for HIV-AIDS, there's a major initiative on education and additional funding for that, there's support for Africa peacekeeping, support, specifically for Africa's ability to trade its goods and support also for proper governance because this is a partnership, it's a deal between Africa and the developed world," said Mr. Blair.

Aid activists in general praise Chancellor Merkel for putting Africa high on the agenda. But, many say, the pledges, particularly to fight diseases, are simply not enough.

Collins Magalasi, country director for the group ActionAid for South Africa and Lesotho calls the pledge a smokescreen.

"We realize this announcement is just there to cover up for the failure that the G8 has made. The $60 billion they're talking about is not enough … and…What we hear is that the $60 billion includes the $30 billion that [President] Bush had earlier on announced," he said. "There is not really a huge announcement so we do not have that much to celebrate about."

But, others welcome the pledges. The group, Global Fund to Fight Aids, Tuberculosis and Malaria says the agreement makes it possible to defeat these pandemic diseases. This will save lives, activists say.