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How foreign NGOs are being impacted by the global financial crisis

February 7, 2009

I’m currently in South Africa working with the Treatment Action Campaign (TAC), a non-profit organisation focusing on HIV and AIDS. I chat with my parents once a week or so, and without fail the economy arises. In many ways the mismanagement of banks in the global North doesn’t seem to have an enormous affect on jobs here. South Africa is preparing for the 2010 World Cup and development seems to continue, with stadiums popping up left and right and many wealthy Europeans scouting the coast line for beautiful property to snatch up.

The country is affected, however, by governments in Europe and North America tightening their belts when it comes to foreign aid. As Reilly stated in her post, Canada’s contribution still lies dismally far below the promised 0.7% GDP. As other countries rush to save their own banks and plan to stimulate their economies, countries that rely on foreign aid to maintain even a base level of economic activity are at risk of being inadvertantly devestated by a financial collapse that is taking place far away.

South Africa has always had a high unemployment rate, leveling off somewhere around 25%. Approximately 29% of pregnant women are tested HIV positive every year. Millions live in poverty. The government often inadequately responds to such statistics, and many foreign and domestic NGOs are left to deal with issues of housing, sanitation, education, and health. For TAC and other AIDS organisations, the strenghth of the Global Fund to Fight Malaria, TB and HIV is essential for them to continue their work. Countries from around the world are asked to pledge to the Fund, which needs approximately US $15 billion to fight these diseases each year. The Fund has a hard enough time reaching this during economic stability and growth. As the New York Times reported last week, the Fund has been ever-shrinking since the markets took a hit this past summer.

Citizens of relatively wealth countries need to continue to put pressure on their governments to contribute to the Fund and other initiatives. We cannot turn a blind eye to apathy in the name of “economic collapse.” It is not only immoral and unjust to bail out banks without addressing issues of health and poverty the world over; postponing such work will only create unnecessary hardships and fuel an even larger problem for the Fund to address in the future.

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