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The UK's unique opportunity to change millions of lives

Posted by Mark Goldring Chief Executive of Oxfam GB

10th Sep 2014

Malakal IDP camp, South Sudan, where recent rains are making life intolerable for civilians. Fighting has forced more than a million people from their homes, and up to 50,000 children are at risk of dying from malnutrition if they don't receive adequate humanitarian aid. Credit: Simon Rawles/Oxfam

On 12th September UK MPs have the chance to make a binding legal commitment to spend 0.7 per cent of national income on overseas aid. Here Oxfam's Chief Executive, Mark Goldring, explains what such a decision could mean for millions of people living in poverty around the world.

Kulang Choul, 3 , with his parents Elizabeth and Gatluack in a displaced persons camp in Juba, South Sudan. 9th July 2014. Credit: Andreea Campeanu/Oxfam

Kulang was days old when South Sudan became the world's newest country three years ago. For Kulang's parents, Elizabeth and Gatluack Choul, an independent South Sudan offered hope and prosperity for their baby boy. But three years on that dream lies shattered as the country has been plunged into deep civil war and there is a real threat of famine. The family live trapped in a camp while fighting continues to rage on across their homeland. 

I have just returned from South Sudan, where the humanitarian crisis is threatening to spiral out of control and now the rainy season has begun. More than one million people have been forced to flee their homes -The lucky ones are in camps supported by the humanitarian community. 

Oxfam CEO Mark Goldring talking with Rachel Mayka, 55, at the Malakal IDP camp, South Sudan. Rachel was a senior school teacher in Malakal before rebels attacked the town in Feb 2014. Credit: Simon Rawles/OxfamI waded through the camp at Malakal - just one of the overcrowded camps where families are living in small tents in thick mud, with little escape from mosquitos and disease - a stark reminder of the deep poverty that millions experience around the world. Kulang's family will not return home for fear of being targeted because of their ethnicity. 

"It would be better if we didn't have to leave to be refugees. The world needs to support people in their lives so South Sudan can be developed and there can be peace in this world," 
Gatluack says when asked what he would say to people beyond South Sudan. 

The UK provides life-saving aid to millions of people around the world living in poverty, facing humanitarian crises and the toughest of conditions. This year we have seen an unprecedented rising tide of humanitarian need, to which the UK has been quick to respond and the UK public have dug deep in their pockets to ensure that life-saving support reaches the people who need it the most.

This is a chance to ensure that the UK's vital aid flows are guaranteed in the future, changing millions of lives for the better. This surge of crises comes at a time when the UK Government has recently met its decades-old promise to the world's poorest, to spend 0.7 per cent of gross national income on aid, for which the coalition government deserves credit. As well as responding to humanitarian crises British aid also helps tackle the root causes of poverty and build the resilience of people and communities for a more prosperous and stable future. This means getting children into school, saving people from death due to preventable causes such as malaria and death during childbirth, and helping countries to grow their own economies. 

On 12th September UK MPs will have the opportunity to vote on whether the UK should enshrine this commitment in law. This is a chance to ensure that the UK's vital aid flows are guaranteed in the future, changing millions of lives for the better. 

An agreement to have predictable funds dedicated to international aid represents a real chance to bring about change on a massive scale - it will mean fewer families going hungry, more children in schools, more trained nurses, and more clean water. Whole communities will have a brighter future as a result. 

Read more

Photos:

  1. Malakal IDP camp, South Sudan, where recent rains are making life intolerable for civilians. Fighting has forced more than a million people from their homes, and up to 50,000 children are at risk of dying from malnutrition if they don't receive adequate humanitarian aid. Credit: Simon Rawles/Oxfam
  2. Kulang Choul, 3 , with his parents Elizabeth and Gatluack in a displaced persons camp in Juba, South Sudan. 9th July 2014. Credit: Andreea Campeanu/Oxfam
  3. Mark Goldring talking with Rachel Mayka, 55, at the Malakal IDP camp, South Sudan. Rachel was a senior school teacher in Malakal before rebels attacked the town in Feb 2014. Credit: Simon Rawles/Oxfam

Blog post written by Mark Goldring

Chief Executive of Oxfam GB

More by Mark Goldring