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Activists Collects African Input for G-8 Meeting


Anna Matswangai, grandson, Nkosinathi Mululeke, wait to transport their belongings from remains of Blue House squatter settlement at Lanseria, near Johannesburg
The leaders of the world's leading industrial nations plus Russia will meet in July to discuss the fate of the world's poorest countries. To prepare for the G-8 meeting, a minivan of activists traveling through Africa is making sure that these countries do their job by eliminating extreme poverty on the continent and all over the world.

The statistics tell their own story. Each day, more than 50,000 people in the world, 30,000 of whom are children, will have died of poverty.

How to ease that poverty will be a central topic when leaders of the world's seven leading industrial nations and Russia meet for the so-called G-8 summit in Scotland July 6.

The international campaign Global Call to Action Against Poverty is urging the leaders to give more development assistance to poor countries, drop unfair international trade practices, and cancel the debts of poor countries.

The campaign's Africa coordinator, Njeri Mwangi-Kinyoho, explains why.

"If you look at the world poverty statistics, they are staggering, they are shocking: when you have over a billion people living in abject poverty, cannot afford food, cannot afford water, cannot afford sanitation, shelter; if you have over 100 million children not accessing basic primary education; when you have over 40 million people infected by HIV and AIDS; when you have over 58,000 people dying daily because they cannot afford food or because they are just too poor to do much for themselves. This level of poverty is a huge violence of basic human rights; it's a violation of our human rights," said Njeri Mwangi-Kinyoho.

To drive the message home, four activists are riding around Africa in a minivan, collecting letters, photographs, petitions, documents, and other feedback from Africans telling the leaders what it is like to be poor and making suggestions about how to end that poverty.

The minivan left South Africa in late March and is due to arrive in Kenya on May 1. It will then proceed to Uganda, return to Kenya, board a ship to sail to France, and visit Italy and England before arriving in Scotland to give the leaders what they have collected.

The aid group Action Aid International is coordinating the minivan trip as part of the larger Global Call to Action Against Poverty campaign.

"The Get on Board bus is a symbol for us which we wanted to use first to reach the most rural people and excluded people, secondly, to be able to reach them to pick the messages about the situation of poverty and how the international decisions and policies have affected their daily lives," said Action Aid International's regional director Asenath Omwega, explaining the trip's purpose.

Amongst other things, the G-8 leaders will be examining recommendations put forth by the Commission for Africa, a body set up by British Prime Minister Tony Blair, who is also chairing the G-8 summit.

The commission urges donor countries to give Africa an extra $25 billion per year in development aid and to cancel the continent's debts.

It calls for donors to double their spending on infrastructure, such as roads, power stations and communications technology, in Africa.

The commission says rich nations must get rid of trade-distorting subsidies to their agricultural sectors, and lower tariffs and other non-tariff barriers to African products.

The G-8 consists of the leaders of the United States, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom, and Russia.

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