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Health, Education, Water and Sanitation Key to Uplifting Poor

A new report says health, education, water and sanitation are the keys to transforming the lives of poor people. OXFAM International says, “It is a scandal that anyone lives today without these most basic of human rights.” VOA’s Joe De Capua reports.

The report – In the Public Interest – says building strong public services should be “at the very heart of making poverty history.” Max Lawson is a senior policy advisor for OXFAM.

“The main thrust of OXFAM’s report is that in order to get every child in the world into school and basic health care, water and sanitation for all poor people, we need to see a massive expansion of public services in poor countries. We think that’s possible, but we need rich countries to step up to the plate and give the development aid that’s necessary to do this,” he says.

For example, Lawson says a lack of clean water in poor countries takes a terrible toll on the young.

“Our report shows that 6,000 children die every single day from diarrhea, which is a disease caused by dirty water. If we could get sanitation to everybody, which is quite affordable, quite possible, we could eliminate those terrible and completely unnecessary deaths each day,” he says.

The report says women, too, suffer greatly from the lack of public services.

Lawson says, “Women are the first to suffer when these public services – education, health, water and sanitation – are not available. They’re the ones that have to walk for miles every day to collect dirty water. It’s their children that get sick (and) they have to look after. Girl children aren’t able to go to school because they can’t afford the fees. Because education is still not free in a vast majority of poor countries.”

OXFAM also estimates that 1400 women die needlessly each day in pregnancy or childbirth.

The report says, “Developing countries will only achieve healthy and educated populations if their governments take responsibility for providing essential services.” But it also says they need help.

“We need rich countries to give more in foreign aid and to give better aid and support public services. We need the World Bank to stop pushing private sector solutions to public service failures. We think it’s about the public sector. It’s about governments taking the lead. And lastly, we need to see those poor country governments that aren’t doing enough to step up to the plate,” he says.

The report, Lawson says, is a plan for achieving the Millennium Development Goals. Those goals include getting all school age children in the classroom, reducing the number of women dying during childbirth and lowering the number of children who die by age five.

“If the Millennium Development Goals are not met it’s a terrible tragedy, literally a life and death promise. And if broken, millions will pay the price with their lives. This is something we can do; and we can do quite possibly for the first time in history. We’ve got enough money; we know how to do it. All we need is the world to act properly and quickly and we could reach these goals,” he says.

The OXFAM official says it’s “not just about charity, it’s about justice.” Something he says that would benefit rich nations in the long run.