G8's Killer Failure on Africa - Millions of Children at Risk

A weak and ambiguous G8 communiqué on African aid means millions more children in developing countries face illness and death from preventable causes.

Today's communiqué from the G8 leaders contains neither an acknowledgement they are off track on fulfilling their aid pledges, nor any concrete plans to get them back on track. In fact, there is now no way they can meet their 2005 promise to double aid for Africa by 2010.

It's taken the G8 only a few hours to condemn this summit to failure on aid for Africa. Even by the unremarkable standards of previous summits this is a low point. It shows a major failure of leadership.

It's encouraging that the G8 has agreed to publish an accountability framework. It doesn't, however, identify specific--and potentially grave--failures to meet individual aid commitments. There should be a serious discussion about what is needed beyond aid to tackle poverty. However, the 'Whole of Country' approach is not that.

It's also a huge blow that the G8 has sidestepped the urgent need to accelerate progress on reducing child and maternal mortality. This year's failure is particularly significant as the current economic crisis means up to 2.8 million more children could die by 2015. That's beyond the 9.2 million who die each year of preventable causes.

Any excuse from G8 leaders that aid is unaffordable in an economic downturn is unacceptable. The 2005 G8 pledge of an extra $50 billion by 2010 is just 2% of the G20 stimulus package. It's also in the G8's interest for Africa to be more stable and prosperous.

Over the 48 hours of this summit 50,000 children will die from preventable causes. At least 50% of these will be in Sub-Saharan Africa. In the absence of urgent action by the international community this means over 9 million child deaths between now and the next G8 in Canada.

We know that when the G8 chooses to act it can make a real impact on child deaths. For example, since 2001 there has been a 90% reduction in deaths from measles. This would not have been possible without the support of G8 countries.

The world's poorest children need the G8 leaders to be building on such successes, not undermining them.

Sue Mbaya is World Vision's advocacy director for Africa. Based in Nairobi, she is in L'Aquila, Italy for the G8.