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Bus Journey Aims to End Poverty in Africa


Young Africans taking part in an international campaign against poverty stopped in Rome this week. They began their journey on a bus in South Africa, and have been gathering messages against hunger and poverty to hand over to world leaders at next month's Group of Eight meeting in Gleneagles, Scotland.

The campaign, called "Get on Board," is a 12,000-kilometer journey on a mini-bus, which began in Johannesburg on March 31. The bus has traveled across Africa, and is now crossing Europe on its way to the G-8 summit in Scotland on July 8.

The journey is part of a campaign by the group ActionAid International to raise awareness and call for action against poverty.

The bus gets its name from the word "matatu," which in Swahili means "three," the cost in shillings for a ticket on a minibus, which is the cheapest form of public transport in most African cities.

Forty-two-year-old Rebecca, from Uganda, says the "matatu" is a symbol of Africa, and the problems it faces today.

"The matatu has been a very symbolic figure, in that, in Africa it is one of the commonest means of transport in our towns, from Nairobi, to Dar-es-Salam to Kampala, to Malawi, we all bought our small vehicles, which drove us from work to home, from hospital to school, all that," she said.

Rebecca says the journey of the bus helps people understand, come together and work together. It's aimed at rallying support from the leaders of the world's wealthiest nations.

This week, the "matatu" stopped in Rome, where the United Nations food agencies are based. The young activists were greeted by officials from the organizations, and discussed different ways to tackle global poverty.

Along the way, those traveling on the bus have been gathering messages and advice from people they have met en route. In some of the African nations, they met people who are living in extreme poverty.

Twenty-six-year-old Ivy from Kenya has been on the bus since its journey began in South Africa.

"We are hoping that by the time we get to the G-8, that the leaders, who will be sitting at that table, will have all those messages at the table when they deliberate about the international issues, and we hope that they will use those particular messages to fight poverty, as they claim that they are going to," said Ivy.

Ivy and others on the bus say the aim of the campaign is to put pressure on world leaders to respond to the promises they made about Africa, and to urge them to provide more aid, particularly in the agricultural sector, and to address basic needs and rights.

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