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Kenyans Urge World Leaders to Keep Promises to End Poverty

Kenyans joined millions of people worldwide in an international demonstration to end poverty on the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty. Sarah Simpson reports from the Korogocho slum area of the capital Nairobi, where residents and campaigners told VOA they believe African leaders have forgotten their promises to end poverty by 2015 as made under the Millennium Development Goals.

Thousands of mostly school age kids from the Nairobi slum of Korogocho gathered in a covered churchyard tucked amongst shambling tin houses for a morning of music and songs. It was their contribution to a 90 country, 24-hour campaign to end global poverty.

Event organizer, Sylvia Mwichuli, explained it was appropriate that most of the attendees were children, as poverty hits the youngest, hardest.

"Most families in the poorest slums across Africa do not even have access even to a meal a day," she said. "And the worst affected, of course, are children."

In 2000, world leaders from 189 countries signed up to the Millennium Development Goals - eight basic promises to slash poverty, tackle HIV and AIDS and increase access to education, amongst others, all by the year 2015.

But with less than seven years to go before deadline, young campaigners like Richard Bosire say African leaders have tossed these promises aside and forgotten about places like Korogocho.

"This is where most people are hit by this problem of poverty," he said. "Look around the slums, the kind of shelter they have, the sanitation, the health facilities they are lacking. That is why we said we should come to Korogocho and let create awareness and when it is going to be reported in the media at least our leaders can remember these places exist and they have to do something about it."

Global organizers of the "Stand up and Speak Out" day estimate tens of millions of people worldwide will take to their feet and demand leaders end global poverty that they say kills 50,000 people a day.

But apart from the kids, most of Korogocho's adult residents did not attend the event. Trader, Julius Muguwala said Kenyan leaders had forsaken the people of Korogocho. Muguwala preferred to stay away from the event to hawk his second-hand clothes and perhaps make a little money.

"Our leaders, they ignore us," he said. "We elect them, and after electing them we do not see them. They go there for good. They only come back when it is time for election. After electing them they go and sit there, they forget people around here."

Kenya is gearing up for national elections in December. Multi-party polls have become the norm across much of Africa, a continent once dominated by military strongmen, earning praise and support from Western governments and aid groups.

Like democracy, economic growth is on the rise in most African countries, too. Life ought to be getting better, but power and wealth is not equitably distributed and millions, like Muguwala, feel forgotten.