Images of suffering African women haunt Lewis
By Greg Lockert
The Prairie Messenger
November 5, 2008
WINNIPEG — Images of the suffering of African women haunt Congo, , Sudan and .. Speaking in Winnipeg Oct. 25, the Canadian humanitarian and activist spoke emotionally about the violence inflicted upon women in countries such as
Speaking in Winnipeg Oct. 25, the Canadian humanitarian and activist spoke emotionally about the violence inflicted upon women in countries such as Congo, Uganda, Sudan and Zimbabwe. “It’s heartbreaking,” Canada’s former ambassador to the UN said.
Lewis spoke at a Friends of Uganda dinner and silent auction at the Winnipeg Convention Centre. Almost 400 people were on hand for the event.
“Rape has become a strategy of war where you humiliate the women who hold society together,” Lewis said. He said the Congo is the worst place on earth in terms of sexual violence against women, even though there are 17,000 peacekeepers there. “The world can’t get its act together to end it,” he said. The Africa. Since 2003, the foundation has funded more than 300 projects in 15 countries. One of the foundation’s projects is a surgical hospital in Congo for female victims of physical violence. Often the political leaders and others who perpetrate sexual violence end up receiving amnesty, which Lewis called a “disgrace.”supports community based organizations that battle the HIV/AIDS epidemic in
Both the leaders and those who carry out the atrocities should face the International Court of Justice in The Hague, he said.Lewis said the savage treatment of women in Africa makes them especially prone to HIV and AIDS infection, adding that 61 per cent of the 23 million HIV/AIDS cases in Africa are women. And despite the millions of dollars being poured into fighting the scourge, Lewis said often the drugs needed for treatment are not reaching the African people. The virus is evolving and mutating rapidly, adding to the difficulty of fighting it.Deaths in Africa from AIDS have created a growing orphan population in places like Uganda, Lewis said.
Uganda alone has two million orphans, half of whom are cared for by heroic grandparents who have had to watch their own children die first.Lewis praised those grandparents, especially the grandmothers, as “miraculous” and credited them with “holding it all together.”
Lewis criticized the rest of the world for failing to make significant progress in the war on poverty. About 1.4 billion people live on less than $1.25 a day, he said, most of them in Africa. Soaring food prices have added about 100 million to that number, he added, and global warming is making things worse, especially in southern Africa where the HIV/AIDS epidemic is the worst.As part of the UN Millennium Project, the G-8 nations agreed at their 2005 summit in Gleneagles, Scotland, to double aid to Africa and eliminate the debts of the . They pledged to increase aid to developing countries by about $50 billion a year by 2010. Since 2005, however, only $4 billion has been spent.
Yet, in only a few days the US government pledged $700 billion to bail out Wall Street, and the US and Canada are spending a combined $3 billion a week on wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
“What kind of moral anchor is this?” Lewis asked, and wondered how the world tolerates such injustice and inequality.Lewis worries a global economic recession will further hurt the fight against poverty and said it’s getting harder to find the resources to fund the battle. He said that the best way to help the suffering people of Africa is through grassroots groups that are directly helping those who are suffering. Lewis’s foundation is funding 25 projects in Uganda in which the money goes directly into the bank accounts of the communities where help is needed.