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Our meeting with the PM


Last week I met with the Australian PM Julia Gillard, to discuss the Global Poverty Project's call to make the eradication of polio a priority issue at the upcoming Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) being held in Perth this year.

I handed the Prime Minister a letter signed by over 700  Australians, outlining 10 reasons Australia should step up their efforts to eradicate this debilitating disease.

This meeting is the first of many taking place this year around the country (and the world) focused on the eradication of polio – a cause which has been making considerable progress since Australian Rotarians commenced their global eradication push in 1979.

Since then, we have seen incidences of the disease reduced by 99%, and the number of polio-endemic countries reduced to just 4 countries worldwide. We are now in a position where we could see this disease eliminated entirely by 2014. As I discussed with the Prime Minister last week; arguments in favour of eradication have never been more compelling. While the cost of health and vaccination investments needed to eliminate polio is estimated at $710 million, the cost of maintaining polio cases at current levels for the next 20 years is predicted to be $10 billion. Moreover, according to the World Health Organisation, if the goal of eradication were to be abandoned and replaced with that of containment, the number of cases of polio recorded could increase from 1,300 to as many as 250,000 per year.

An Australian commitment to eradication would be significant for a number of reasons. not only will it protect future generations from the paralysis, disability and death caused by this preventable disease, but it would also demonstrate  the investment value of foreign aid – highlighting the life-changing impact aid dollars have and emphasising the importance of our foreign aid program.

This was something that particularly hit a chord with the Prime Minister. Reflecting on a conversation she had recently with Melinda Gates, and recent media coverage - the Prime Minister agreed that it was important to highlight the positive impact of our foreign aid investment. With many leaders from developing countries expected to be present at this October’s CHOGM meeting, the Prime Minister said she was interested in CHOGM having a clear development focus, and said she would consider  including  polio eradication as an agenda item to be considered by  Commonwealth leaders at the meeting. It is my belief that with focused efforts and continued public attention on this important issue, we can build on the incredible efforts of Australian Rotarians since 1979, and create the momentum and public pressure needed for world leaders to make a commitment to eradicate polio from our world within 3 years.

As Bono once said “we can’t blame the politicians because we have to give them permission to spend what is in the end our money.”

This is why the Global Poverty Project, in partnership with countless Rotary clubs and districts around Australia, are embarking on an education and advocacy campaign in the lead up to this October’s CHOGM meeting, to raise public awareness about the unprecedented opportunity we have to see an End to Polio.

Globally, we stand on the cusp of a historic event. If eradicated, polio would be only the second disease to be eradicated from our world in the history of humanity. We now have the chance to finish what Australian Rotarians started in 1979 – and we look to leadership by the Commonwealth in bringing this about.

To join the Global Poverty Project’s campaign to End Polio, sign up below. Michael Sheldrick is the Australian Campaign Manager for the Global Poverty Project, an education and advocacy organisation  focused on ensuring both the public and private sectors in OECD nations take action to contribute to the end of extreme poverty.

Posted by Michael Sheldrick - Polio Campaign Manager in Poverty, Global Health, Aid for column Action Stories on Apr 5th 2011, 21:14

Pakistan's Education Emergency


When I was in primary school, I remember enjoying school so much that I couldn’t wait for each new day. I loved learning exciting new things and being able to socialise with my friends in and out of the classroom during the school day. Once I was back at home, I couldn’t wait to share all the fascinating things I learned with my parents and quiz them to see if they were as smart as I was.

“But Mommy, did you know that Neil Armstrong was the first person to set foot on the moon?”

Of course I was slightly bitter when I discovered that although my mother was impressed by my knowledge, in fact she had also heard of Mr. Armstrong’s achievements.

Unfortunately, there are 7 million children in Pakistan who don’t get the chance to have these conversations with their parents at the end of the day, because they aren’t able to attend primary school. 3 million of them will never even see the inside of a classroom.

That means that of the world’s 67 million out-of-school children we discussed last week, roughly 1 in 10 of them live in Pakistan. And for those children who are in school, many of them suffer through overcrowded classrooms, dilapidated facilities, brutal or careless teachers and an overall failing education system.

The Pakistan Education Task Force has deemed this an “education emergency” and is working to ensure that March is the month that Pakistan talks about nothing but education. Well, and cricket.

They have launched the March for Education campaign to ring the alarm on the emergency and work to bring adequate education to all children in Pakistan. The campaign has marked 2011 as Pakistan’s Year of Education to create a national debate with these topics at the top of the political agenda.

The Issues
The March for Education website has a series of 1-minute videos describing the different issues that are creating this education emergency in Pakistan. They range from accessibility for poor families to a limited number of teachers.

However, you might be surprised to know that money is not what’s holding them back from achieving universal primary education. There are currently 26 countries poorer than Pakistan that send more of their children to primary school.

This is an issue of priorities. If the world is serious about achieving education for all by 2015, we have to make education a priority.

You can make a difference
We can all help make education in Pakistan a priority for politicians by signing the March for Education online petition to world leaders to end the education emergency.

Let’s speak up as a global community to let our leaders know that every child in Pakistan deserves the opportunity to go to school and to learn in a safe and conducive environment, and that the time to act is now.


Posted by Ashli Alberty in Education for column Action Stories on Mar 28th 2011, 08:01

Join the Oxfam Pramble


A group of inspirational Oxfam volunteers invite you to join them on a journey to make a noise about healthcare for mums around the world. They are revving up their prams for a relay walk from Manchester to London because they think the fact 1000 women die needlessly everyday in childbirth due to a lack of access to adequate healthcare is a tragedy.

The Oxfam Pramble is a fun, free relay style pram walk winding its way down from Manchester to London from 19th March until 2nd April. Every day there are two different ten mile walking sections that people can walk as well as some fun parties and events to celebrate the journey.

This event is free to join. We’ll provide the route, the prams, a pregnant paper mache giant, and will even chuck in a cup of tea at the end. It’s a chance to explore England in a totally new way!

Now all we need is for you to get involved!

Harriet Roberts (expectant mum): "I feel so lucky to live in the UK where I can access some of the best healthcare in the world for free. I love the idea of the pramble and will definitely come along to show my support for mums across the world."

Posted by Nicola Sansom (Oxfam - Guest Blogger) in Global Health, What Can I Do? for column Action Stories on Mar 16th 2011, 08:42

Walk for Water Rights This March


On 19-22 March 2011, the world will come together to promote global water and sanitation rights for The World Walks for Water. As we’ve discussed previously, there are currently 884 million people lacking access to clean water, and 2.6 billion who don’t have a safe toilet. This means that 4,000 children die every day from diarrhoea contracted from contaminated water, 3,000 of which are in Africa alone.

The World Walks for Water is asking us all to walk 6 kilometres to stand in solidarity with those in developing countries who have to walk that distance each day just to access water. And even then the water is often dirty.

But this global event is about more than just bringing awareness to this devastating issue. The walk will also demand that politicians in the North and the South keep their promises and step up their efforts to ensure water and sanitation for all people, everywhere.

This effort is particularly essential in the UK where the Department for International Development’s (DFID) announcement recently of their aid review revealed that they are not making water and sanitation a priority.

WaterAid described in their newsroom that “in promising to provide access to drinking water and improved sanitation to an equivalent number to the population of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland over the next four years, the [UK] Government is set to reach only one percent of the world's poorest people without access to these basic human rights."

We need to continue pressuring our governments to accept that aid for these issues would provide a huge return on investment - for every £1 invested in water and sanitation, £8 is returned in economic returns through increased productivity (UNDP) and would prevent up to 1.4 million child deaths every year (UNICEF).

Join the Walk
You can still sign up to organise your own Walk for Water or you can join a walk in your area. Together this month we can help motivate others to take action in achieving a world where no one goes without clean water and adequate sanitation.

Posted by Ashli Alberty in What Can I Do?, Water & Sanitation for column Action Stories on Mar 14th 2011, 08:53

Fairtrade Fortnight: Show off your label!


Do you want to know how buying a cotton shirt and a chocolate bar could help end extreme poverty? It’s simple.

This short clip describes the many benefits of fair trade and what you can do to get involved with Fairtrade Fortnight, currently running until 13 March. Fairtrade Fortnight 2011 was launched this week alongside the announcement that sales of Fairtrade products in the UK has soared to £1.17 billion, up from £836 million in 2009.

Buying Fairtrade products helps give 7.5 million people in the developing world a more secure future. These purchases ensure farmers and workers in developing countries receive fair and sustainable wages with decent working conditions so they have the means to pull themselves out of poverty.

Get involved
Fairtrade Fortnight 2011 is encouraging everyone to “show off your Fairtrade label” to spread the word about Fairtrade and the benefits it creates. You can attend a public Fairtrade Event from chocolate and wine tasting evenings to tea dances and debates, or there’s still time to create your own event!

You can also participate in a Facebook Show Off Challenge, tweet or post on Facebook about the benefits of Fairtrade, or even just make more of an effort to purchase Fairtrade products for the next few weeks.

Our How-To Buy Fairtrade Certified Products Guide is also a great starting point if you are unsure about how to get started on your Fairtrade journey.

Whatever you decide to do this Fairtrade Fortnight, remember that these simple steps you can take will benefit millions of people living in poverty around the world and help to change lives with every pound spent on Fairtrade.

Posted by Ashli Alberty in What Can I Do? for column Action Stories on Mar 11th 2011, 03:46