Oxfam launched a global call for “Health and Education For All” in New Delhi, calling for investment for six million (60 lakh) more teachers, nurses and doctors around the world. Oxfam is urging developing country governments to allocate an increased proportion of their annual budgets into providing these essential services, and demanding that rich countries support poorer nations with an increased and long-term aid commitment targeting the health and education sectors.
According to Oxfam’s Global “For All” campaign briefing, released today, universal education and health is possible in even the poorest countries, if the investments are made. The brief reveals how Uganda and Brazil have doubled the number of children in school, halved AIDS deaths and extended safe drinking water and sanitation to millions of people. In Sri Lanka, where even though one-third of the population lives below the poverty line, public clinics with free medical treatment and qualified nurses are within walking distance.
Nearly 300 children joined actor Rahul Bose and award-winning classical dancer Geeta Chandran to launch the ‘For All’ campaign call. The children wore doctors, nurses and teachers outfits to symbolise the 6 million health and education workers which Oxfam estimates are needed worldwide to provide basic health care and primary education for every child. At least one and a half million (15 lakh) are needed in India alone. New footage released at the event showed Hollywood actress Scarlett Johannson visit to Indian schools earlier this year where she met, and was inspired by child campaigners for education.
“As India becomes a stronger global player, it is ironic that we still do not provide schooling or health care for millions of our children,” said Bollywood actor and Oxfam’s Global Ambassador Rahul Bose. ” ‘For All’ is calling not only on the Indian government but every government in the world to take the responsibility for providing quality basic services for all its citizens. Rich nations too need to increase aid to health and education, where necessary, to help poor country government reach their goals.”
The event opened with a special dance by Geeta Chandran. “I know how hard it is for people to make something of their lives, or even to follow their creative impulses, if they are hampered by illiteracy or ill health,” she said. “We owe it to children to give them a fighting chance in life and I can think of no better way than joining this call for action. That’s why I’m here today.”
Bose and Chandran were the first signatories for the new global petition which aims to reach 6 millions signatures by 2010 – the number of qualified teachers and health workers needed globally to give every child the chance to be healthy and to have an education.
‘For All’ ambassadors, pediatrician Dr Archana Kumar and teacher Afsana – both making a huge impact in poor areas around Lucknow, North India – helped launch the petition.
“No child should die because the resources are not available,” said Dr Kumar, a pediatrician at the Chhatrapati Sahuji Maharaj Medical University, Lucknow.
“The biggest problem I face is that it is hard to manage such a big number of children,” said Afsana who teaches 175 children in the two-teacher Kassmandi Khund village school.
Ben Phillips Oxfam Campaigns and Policy Manager for South Asia concluded:
“Health workers and teachers like Afsana and Archana are the heroes of the story – the people who are delivering health care and education against almost impossible odds. We need more like them, and it is an achievable goal. If governments and citizens get behind this call for action, we can change the prospects for millions of children in our lifetime. The global petition started today will show leaders around the world that the public demands health and education for all.”
A briefing paper released by Oxfam on the occasion says India is a country of extremes: ‘World Class’ advanced medical treatment for the wealthy and `medical’ tourists but Maternal Mortality and Infant Mortality rates worse than sub-Saharan Africa in India’s poorest districts; ‘World class’ economists, scientists, engineers, IT Professionals, but the largest number of people in any country in the world without access to education. It shows that Indian government spending on health, as a percentage of GDP, is 18th from the bottom among 177 countries.
But the report also shows that success is possible, and that parts of India are making good progress on essential services. Government’s initiative in the Indian state of Himachal Pradesh, for instance, provides an outstanding example where high rates of literacy have been achieved despite hilly terrain, lack of access to water, extreme weather and high poverty. Himachal’s literacy rate was 19% in 1951; by 2001 it had gone up to 77% – with 96% for the 15-19 age group. Where state governments have invested in more teachers, lower teacher-pupil ratio, more classrooms and fewer single-teacher schools, the overall educational achievements are much better.
Oxfam’s ‘For All’ Campaign also supports the Wada Na Todo (‘Keep your Promises’) alliance in India, and especially the children’s “9 is Mine” campaign demanding 9% of India’s GDP for health and education as promised by the Government of India.
Working with allies around the world, the “For All” will hold developed and developing countries to account to ensure that they keep their promises to ensure that health and education for all becomes a reality.