On 15th September at a meeting with UK charities working internationally Nick Clegg, Deputy Prime Minister, made the case for aid and pledged to meet the promises made within the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). The moral case is easily made. To take just two indicators of poverty, 72 million children are out of school and 9 million die before they reach their 5th birthday. Andrew Mitchell (Secretary of State for International Development) added that we may look back in 100 years and view poverty in the same way that we are horrified at slavery today. But it is not only a statement of the problems that will convince the British public that generous aid should be given, it is showing that aid works.
The Millennium Development Goals are a good entry point but the UK government may be focusing on the wrong approaches to get the job done. Nick Clegg's gave the impression that the UK government view health in a limited way with an eye on short-term gains. Just as slavery was not abolished by improving the conditions on the ships, or making healthcare more accessible for slaves, so long-term solutions to poverty should be the priority with healthcare as only one element. When Nick Clegg attends the MDG Summit, I would suggest that he goes beyond symptoms and numbers and understands the root causes of poverty, learning as much as possible from the impressive work of local organisations in Africa, Asia and South America. As examples,
Access to education is not assured by building schools alone. ChildHope's partner organisation in Uganda, the African Network for Prevention and Protection Against Child Abuse (ANPPCAN) have shown that to get and keep children in school, you have to reduce sexual and physical violence against children. ChildHope and ANPPCAN's new project will work with government schools to develop the capacity of teachers and children to prevent abuse.
Healthcare on its own will not prevent child deaths. Children of all ages need a range of services, including protection, housing, adult care, health and education, and their families need back-up in challenging poverty. In many countries - Peru, Tanzania and India - we are supporting local organisations to develop community-based child protection, to assist children in getting access to government services but also strengthening families' livelihoods.
ChildHope is only a small team of specialists, working with local organisations to develop effective approaches to international development and show that aid can work. But the UK government can do so much more. They can influence national governments and international agencies about how to meet the MDGs through long-term reduction in poverty and inequality rather than quick fix measures. As the Protect for the Future' report, published by Everychild, ChildHope and others says, if we ignore the need for child and youth protection, care and equality of opportunity, then the MDGs will remain off-track.