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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Groups Decry Military Spending in Africa

DAKAR, Senegal -- Imagine an Africa without a history of two dozen wars over the last couple decades.

It might have been a continent of growth instead of the world's poorest, according to a report released Thursday by three international nongovernmental organizations who estimate conflicts are costing the continent about $18 billion per year.

"This is money Africa can ill afford to lose," Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf wrote in an introduction to the report by the British charity Oxfam and two anti-small arms advocacy groups, Saferworld and the International Action Network on Small Arms.

"The sums are appalling: the price that Africa is paying could cover the cost of solving the HIV and AIDS crisis in Africa, or provide education, water and prevention and treatment for tuberculosis and malaria," Sirleaf wrote. "Literally thousands of hospitals, schools, and roads could have been built."

The report estimates that, compared with peaceful countries, war-battered African nations have "50 percent more infant deaths, 15 percent more undernourished people, life expectancy reduced by five years, 20 percent more adult illiteracy, 2.5 times fewer doctors per patient and 12.4 percent less food per person."

"This methodology almost certainly gives an underestimate," the group said in a joint statement. "It does not include the economic impact on neighboring countries, which could suffer from political insecurity or a sudden influx of refugees. The study only covers periods of actual combat, but some costs of war, such as increased military spending and a struggling economy, continue long after the fighting has stopped."

"This is a massive waste of resources -- roughly equivalent to total international aid to Africa from major donors during the same period," the report said.