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.
I was born in 1970; the year the Beatles announced they were breaking up, the year after man landed on the moon for the first time. In the same year rich countries promised to give 0.7% of their national income as foreign aid to support poor countries in providing vital services, such as health and education, to their people.
Rich countries have since promised to help poorer countries reach the 8 Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) by 2015, which aim to provide, among other things, clean water, access to health care and medicines and a quality education for all.
40 years later, only a handful of countries have reached the target of 0.7%. The MDGs are far from being achieved. On current projections, MDG 4, which aims to reduce deaths of children under the age of five by two-thirds, will not be met until 2045.
If rich countries had kept their promise to reach 0.7%, extreme poverty could have been ended 22 times over.
But 2010 is here and everyday I meet people who cannot afford basic health care and who are suffering terribly as a result. I know there are millions of people around the world in a similar situation. I know, just as one example, that there are still 350,000 women and girls a year dying as a result of complications in childbirth.
40 years of broken promises is unacceptable, we must hold rich nations to account.
Today marks 40 days to the G8 Summit, where 8 of the richest and most powerful countries in the world will get together, in Canada. These nations have the power to change things, and to get the world back on track in meeting the MDGs.
The success of aid as a tool to fight poverty has already been clearly demonstrated. Over the past decade 33 million more children are in the classroom, and in 5 years there has been a ten-fold increase in the coverage of antiretroviral treatment for HIV and AIDs.
Meeting the MDGs is still possible. This is no time to drop these efforts, but we must sustain and improve them.
So will the G8 leaders work together to get their promises back on track? I believe it is our responsibility, as civil society, to ensure they do.
40 years is too long for broken promises! Follow us over the next 40 days and help us to make sure that G8 leaders hear this call!
Take action now : Demand that world leaders keep their promises. Join our Health & Education For All pledge