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Uganda Tour Deepens O'Neill, Bono Divisions on Aid

Posted on Monday, May 27 @ 09:14:26 CEST by Macphisto

KAMPALA, Uganda (Reuters) - U.S. Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill and Irish rock singer Bono revealed strong differences Monday over how rich nations should help poverty-stricken Africa.

The pair, in Uganda on the third leg of a debt-study tour that has taken them to Ghana and South Africa and will end in Ethiopia, differed on whether more aid money and increased debt forgiveness could help Uganda.

As the pair toured an elementary school outside Kampala, O'Neill expressed surprise that six or seven children had to share one book and suggested voluntary aid could ease such shortages.

"I think if people understood they could give six copies of Dr. Seuss and every child could have one ... that translates better than saying give us some more money," O'Neill said.

"If you do something that helps people with real tangible things (it helps more than) some cosmic stuff about billions of dollars," O'Neill said.

Bono, a long-term activist for debt relief and aid to Africa, responded by saying more money was desperately needed from rich Western nations.

"It is going to take billions of dollars ... it's not 'cosmic stuff' though," Bono said, adding more money would allow children to have a meal a day and to prepare themselves for better futures through education.

Earlier, the two, joined by Hollywood actor Chris Tucker, traveled down dusty roads through lush green countryside to visit a well project that Bono and O'Neill agreed was a prime example of effective aid use.

The well, which cost about $1,000 to build, provides clean water for about 500 people. Local officials said it had helped reduce diarrhea and other diseases.

Singing school children greeted the pair at a nearby elementary school. They spent some time with school officials and children in the mud-floored building.

Uganda is ranked at 141 out of 162 countries on the United Nations Development Index.

The country of 23 million has averaged six percent growth over the past decade, largely helped by donor funds. In 2000 around 35 percent of the population was living on less than a dollar a day -- down from 56 percent in 1992.

By Glen Sommerville

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