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Ahead of UN MDG summit, DFID reaffirms commitment to reducing world poverty

Ahead of UN MDG summit, DFID reaffirms commitment to reducing world poverty

Next week leaders from around the globe will meet in New York for the UN Millennium Development Goals (MDG) Summit.  The actions they take over these three days could hold the key to creating a stable, successful future for millions of the world’s poorest people.

The MDGs were agreed 10 years ago with a palpable sense of urgency. Something needed to be done to save the lives of mothers dying needlessly in childbirth, to get the millions of children missing out on an education into school, to fight the spread of killer diseases and first and foremost to halve the number of people living in poverty across the world.

Those leaders, a decade ago, set themselves a deadline of 2015 to achieve the goals. So with the clock ticking down to 2015, now is the time to take stock, review progress and press hard on the accelerator pedal to speed up in the areas which need the most urgent attention.

The Summit takes place in the tailwind of the global financial meltdown. In this difficult economic climate the temptation is for nations to pull back from the international commitments they have made. It is a temptation that the UK government is determined to resist. The new coalition government has been clear – we will keep the promises made to the world’s poorest people, and maintain our commitment to reducing poverty around the world.

But aid is only part of the story. Trade and investment are the engines of economic growth, offering the only sustainable way out of the grinding poverty that afflicts nearly a billion people across the globe. Boosting private investment and enterprise in the developing world has the potential to help us meet every single one of the MDGs. People with secure jobs and fair wages have the opportunity to lift themselves out of poverty.

The UK goes to the Summit putting women and girls at the forefront of its efforts. Investing in them will reap dividends. How can countries propel themselves towards sustainable economic growth when 50% of its talent are not given the opportunity to make a contribution? Every day about 1,400 women die in pregnancy or childbirth, nearly all of them in the developing world.  This cannot be allowed to continue. The UK will be making a huge effort at the Summit to bring an end to this daily tragedy and will be pushing other governments to do likewise.  By improving the quality of health services we can start to ensure that pregnancy is no longer a life threatening condition.  In Sierra Leone, UK funding provided 12 months supply of essential drugs and essential budget support so that the Government of Sierra Leone’s Free Health Care policy could be successfully launched in April this year.  This means that illicit charges for services are no longer a barrier to women and children receiving the health care they need.  230,000 pregnant women and 1 million children under 5 years of age will now be able to access free health care every year.

And what of the 2000 deaths a day – mostly children, the vast majority preventable – from malaria? The disease leaves only tragedy in its wake – families suffering, countries robbed of future talent and huge burdens on health services already at breaking point. It is right that tackling malaria is also right at the top of the UK’s agenda for the summit.  In Sierra Leone the UK has provided 1 million bednets to support the Government’s aim of ensuring every household in the country has protection against malaria by November 2010.

Everyone of us has an interest in meeting the MDGs, but they can only be met with the determination of governments, charities and businesses, civil societies and citizens. The UK has been a world leader in tackling the MDGs, and we have been working night and day over the past few months to make sure next week’s summit is a success. We now urge others attending the summit to join the UK in agreeing a course of action that will meet the MDGs by 2015, setting us on the path to eradicating poverty once and for all.

Department for International Development (DFID)

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