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Lions Roar : March 2006
for loans-that he says have crippled many countries' health and education resources. He says these programs have resulted in one of the greatest wrongs in the global South, the imposi- tion of user fees for public education. The result is a double penalty for the children of AIDS: orphaned by their parents' deaths and left in the darkness of ignorance by their financial inability to afford school. In Race Against Time, Lewis writes that the World Bank and the IMF should pay the cost associ- ated with abolishing school fees as "reparations" for the dam- age their policies have caused: "This is not some negotiable Grandmothers Grandmothers have emerged as the heroes of Africa. The physical ravaging of extended families and the desperate poverty of communities means that grandmothers step in when there's no one else to tread. I wonder if such a situation has ever occurred before in the history of organized soci- ety? I wish there were more authoritative infor- mation about what happened to orphans during the Black Death of the fourteenth century. In the instance of Africa today, these old and unimaginably frail women often look after five or ten or fifteen kids, enduring every conceiv- able hardship for the sake of their grandchildren, alongside additional numbers of other abandoned waifs who wander the landscape of the continent. The trauma of the grandmothers equals that of the orphans; in fact, every normal rhythm of life is violated as grandmothers bury their own chil- dren and then look after their orphan grandchil- dren. I remember, vividly, sitting under the trees, outside the Alex/Tar Children's Clinic in Alexan- dra Township in Johannesburg, with about twen- ty grandmothers as they told their heartbreaking stories of personal loss, one by one. I could barely imagine how they were functioning; everyone of them had made that heart-wrenching trek to the graveyard, many more than once, and yet they spoke with a spunk and resilience that was posi- tively supernatural. From Race Against Time, by Stephen Lewis (House of Anansi Press, 2005). 70 SHAMBHALA SUN MARCH 2006 item. I am writing and speaking passionately about it be- cause every time I travel to Africa I encounter orphan chil- dren who are desperate to be in school, who need friends and teachers and attention, who need one meal a day that could come from a school feeding program, who need the sense of self-worth that education could bring, who want so much to learn, and who are denied all of it because the costs of schooling are prohibitive." At their recent summit, leaders of the world's wealthy G8 countries pledged $50 billion in total aid for Africa by 2010. Lewis says that falls far short of what is needed and that Bob Geldof, with his Live 8 razzle-dazzle, merely played into the G8 leaders' hands by praising the summit as a spectacular suc- cess. The conservative estimate for sustaining and introducing new AIDS programs by 2010 will be $30 billion "for AIDS and AIDS alone," Lewis says. "Not for TB or malaria, not for health systems, not for education, not for sanitation, agriculture, the whole vast range of poverty and hunger-just for AIDS." Lewis has declared that there is no chance-none, not a hope in hell-that the much-touted Millennium Develop- ment Goals (which include reversing the spread of HIV / AIDS by 2015) will be attained unless all the world's wealthy coun- tries raise their levels of official development assistance (ODA) to 0.7 percent of gross national product. Which he increas- ingly doubts they will do (0 DA levels for the u.S. and Canada, for example, are both at less than a third of the goal). He has accused the continent's richest government, South Africa's, of doing far less than much poorer countries to pro- vide its AIDS-infected citizens with antiretroviral treatment. The country has an estimated 6.3 million sufferers. "The World Bank," says Lewis, "did an econometric study of South Africa and said if they didn't deal immediately with the pandemic the country would collapse within three generations. South Africa went nuts, but the World Bank refused to back off." To help, Lewis has launched his own foundation (www.ste- phenlewisfoundation.org) to fund community hospice care for women who are dying, so that their last weeks, days, hours are free from pain, humiliation, and indignity; to assist or- phans and other AIDS-affected children with assistance rang- ing from the payment of school fees to the provision of food, and to support associations of people living with HIV / AIDS, so that men and women with the courage to declare openly their affliction can educate themselves and share information with the broader community on prevention, treatment, care, and the elimination of stigma. IF STEAM IS WHAT Stephen Lewis is running out of, it is not happening quickly. Or even visibly. Last October and Novem- ber, for example, he had 28 speeches scheduled. He has be- come a national hero in his own country, especially to young