The MDG summit kicks off today, following a strong appeal from Africa’s first female Head of State, President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf of Liberia, to finally tackle what she described as “the orphaned MDG”, and “one of the greatest untold development challenges facing the international community”. The article appeared in the International Herald and Tribune, and the New York Times.
The intervention from President Sirleaf Johnson has been widely welcomed by campaigners trying to bring attention the to the fact that over 40% of the world’s population do not have access to safe sanitation. It’s a deadly, dirty secret that is at the heart of why we are not making fast enough progress in reducing poverty and disease.
Today’s agenda will include lots of speeches from Heads of States, as well as “round table discussions” on hunger, gender equality, health and education. (All speeches will be available online here, though it is not confirmed whether the round tables will in fact have any tables, be round, or have genuine discussions. Time will tell.)
We’ll be analysing the speeches to see if anything new is promised, and if the links between all these issues and water and sanitation is made. It would be baffling if not – the sanitation and water crisis hits women and girls hardest, costs 443 million lost school days every year, is responsible for 50% of deaths by malnutrition, and overall costs the lives of 2.2 million children each year.
Let’s hope they also listen to UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon, who used his opening speech to world leaders to call for action for "the girl weighed down with wood or water when instead she should be in school."See Monday’s press release here.