Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti

On World TB Day 3.24.08: Linking Debt & Tuberculosis

By mon�t cooper | Jubilee USA Network

Today is Maya Yamazaki, policy analyst at the Families USA Global Health Initiative, sent us a link to a game called �Whack TB [Tuberculosis].� Basically, the gamer/user takes a mallet that, literally, pummels the disease in countries all over the world.

The game begins slowly.

I eliminated TB in Nigera, which has about 704,000 reported cases. I whacked TB in Tanzania, which has over 190,000 cases, then on to Brazil, Peru, Columbia and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

But I noticed something: The more I let tuberculosis feel the brute force of my mallet, the faster TB spread.

One of the deepest contrasts and, to me most disturbing comparisons, is the number of cases in Florida versus those in Haiti. Florida reports 1,038 cases of tuberculosis, yet Haiti, only 600 miles away from the Florida coast has more than 34,000.

As I paused to think about Haiti�s plight, the game ended.

In an email Maya writes that �as the rest of the world is doing its part to stop the spread of Tuberculosis, what is the U.S. doing? Not as much as we could. We need new vaccines and new drugs if we are to stop TB from spiraling out of control, and we need them now.�

How do countries access these new drugs to not only help stop TB from spreading as well as HIV/AIDS and other life-threatening illnesses?

Well, one way is by increasing the amount of money governments allocate to healthcare in their budgets. In countries like Haiti, which is scheduled to pay about $52 million in debt service this year, that money � nearly $1 million a week � could be used to provide health services to people in a country whose infrastructure and economy has been damaged by years of structural adjustment and corrupt dictators.

Currently, Haiti�s poor are repaying the loans given to corrupt dictators like the Duvaliers, who spent money given to them by the development banks like the IMF and Inter-American Development Bank on fur coats, luxury cars, shopping trips to Europe and death squads.

How does this involve you?

Well, you can ask your members of Congress to take action and support legislation that cancels the impoverished country debt, prohibits harmful economic and policy conditions on debt cancellation, mandates transparency and responsibility in lending from governments and international financial institutions, calls for a new legal framework to restrict the activities of predatory �vulture funds,� and calls for a U.S. audit of debts resulting from unsound lending practices.

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