A desperate and largely unknown humanitarian crisis is deteriorating in the Lake Chad Basin region of West Africa, forcing millions of people to flee their homes and leaving millions more in need of humanitarian assistance. Oxfam is providing life-saving support but help is urgently needed to prevent the crisis turning into a catastrophe.
For the first blog of the new decade I want to take you back to the turn of the century. A time when facebook did not exist, George W. Bush had not yet become the president of the United States and a plan by world leaders to tackle global poverty was launched - the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).
These goals were agreed upon by 192 United Nations member states and trumpeted by the leaders of the G8 (the world’s most industrialised nations) as a solution to the continuing scar of global poverty. The short film below gives more of an idea of what these commitments are.
Reaching the MDGs will help millions of people to lift themselves out of poverty. They aim to provide, among other things, clean water, access to health care and medicines and a quality education for all.
The deadline for meeting these eight goals is 2015; we are two thirds of the way there and this year is vital.
Since 2000 a great deal of progress has been made in education, especially in getting more children into school. By getting rid of fees for primary school kids, Tanzania has got nearly 3 million more of them into school in the last 5 years.
There has also been some inspirational progress in saving children’s lives. Nepal has cut the number of children who die before their fifth birthday by a third, and the country is on target to meet the Millennium Development Goal on child mortality before 2015. Globally the goal to put TB into reverse was met in 2004.
These are great achievements, but unfortunately there’s still some serious work to be done. 72 million children in poor countries are still waiting for their chance to get into the classroom, and millions of people in poor countries continue to get poor-quality health care, or are forced to go without it altogether. Fees are too high, hospitals and clinics are too few.
A concerted effort is needed this year to get off track goals, such as maternal mortality, back on track, and ensure that the progress that has been made is not threatened by the impact of the global economic crisis that is making the live of poor families harder every day.
We expect world leaders to seize the opportunity of 2010, when the MDGs will be high on the political agenda, from Spain to New York to South Africa, to build on great progress and show us how they will finish the job.
The UN will hold an MDG Summit in September to discuss progress on the goals and how they can be reached. So now is the time to put pressure on our leaders and make sure that they can’t wriggle out, forget about or spin their way around meeting the MDGs.
If we don’t start to see some strong action this year then these commitments will just become empty promises. And that’s where you come in. Take part in Oxfam’s Big Promise and send a message to world leaders that promises can and must be kept.
In some ways the new century has been a disappointment. I still don’t have a flying car or a robotic butler. There’s not much chance that I’ll get either of them in the next five years. But with the right will we can reach the MDGs and help lift millions of people out of poverty.