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Plight of the real 'slumdogs'

An article by Bill Cash published in The Guardian 15/09/2009

Slumdog Millionaire doesn't get near it. By the way, the slum dwellers of Mumbai and Delhi I was with last week resent the use of "slumdog" with good reason. It is difficult to describe or, indeed, to exaggerate the degrading living conditions to which they have been reduced. When people speak today of human rights, the rights of which they speak are off the radar as far as the rag-pickers are concerned. For them, the theoretical luxury of a remote judicial process would seem totally alien and meaningless. They are simply on a continuous journey of survival.
 
I went to India with Results UK with the co-operation of Global Health Advocates, who also work internationally with Tear Fund, as I do, along with Water Aid, on sanitation and water matters. I travelled with two other members of parliament, David Borrow (Labour) and Mark Oaten (Lib Dem). We were equally affected by what we saw. We went for three days to see at first hand the problems caused by tuberculosis and the lack of sanitation and water. As chairman of the all-party parliamentary group on third world sanitation and water, I also learned a great deal about TB and its relationship to HIV/Aids.
 
The Indian government has a TB strategy, which is beginning to work, helped by our own Department for International Development (DfID), the WHO and others. It now appears to have a 70% detection rate, where it can establish contact, and a treatment success rate of 85%, with 100,000 patients being treated every month.
 
Yet because of its scale, the problem is in great danger of overwhelming even these determined efforts, and malnutrition is intensifying an already desperate situation. TB kills more adults in India than any other infectious disease, with more than 1,000 people a day dying at the rate of two deaths every three minutes. Recent statistics suggest that there are about four million virulent TB cases, and half of those who have HIV complications run a 10 times higher risk of dying. We were told that compliance with international regulations is significantly reducing the risk of exporting TB from India to other countries, which is politically extremely important.
 
The movement from rural to urban living has imposed an intense burden on the already struggling infrastructure. It is with anxiety that I heard of increasing urbanisation, which I fear will make the overstretched water systems even worse. Despite their deprivation, though, people gather under the aegis of organisations such as Saahasee and Save the Children (India) into self-help taskforces co-ordinated by local teams of courageous women slum dwellers.
 
Through these local networks, the women work within a catchment area of about quarter of a million poverty-stricken people. With careful management, they turn tiny voluntary subscriptions of one or two rupees a day into funds of more than 5 million rupees (£62,000) and more. These self-helpers are alleviating the poverty and evolving a new way forward from the very bottom up.
 
These grassroots movements are not, in any sense, political, but they do create an underpinning for some of the most impoverished people in the world. I have seen comparable slums in Nairobi and other parts of Africa, but never before this meeting of ground zero conditions with the soaring effect of self-help.
 
Comparable deprivation in the mid-Victorian period was found in Ireland by John Bright in the 1840s in his campaign for the Irish peasantry during the famine of 1849, which he complemented by his campaign for self-government, water, irrigation and canal systems for Indians in India. More now needs to be done to create a convergence of India's economic miracle with help for those in the most deprived slums. For democracy to continue to succeed in India, the conditions of the slum dwellers must change.
 
It is to the credit of the British government, DfID and the Conservative party that they have committed themselves to ring-fencing international development funding after the next general election. But we need renewed international action through the G8 and G20, as Tony Blair promised me in one of his last letters as prime minister on 27 June 2007. I raised the issue with Gordon Brown on the floor of the House of Commons on his statement about this year's G8 in July, reminding him that he had not pursued his predecessor's promise on sanitation and water – which he then agreed to do.
 
I left India with the abiding memory of a woman rag-picker crying out from the midst of the crowd surrounding us, "Please, we beg of you, give us clean water. This is what we need!"


Bill Cash presses water and sanitation concerns on World Water Day

Press release 22 March 2011

Bill Cash MP marked World Water Day today at an event in Parliament co-hosted by the All Party Parliamentary Group for Water and Sanitation in the Third World, of which he is the Chairman, along with the All Party Group on Environment and Development. 

The first event was titled ‘Water: a resource under threat’ and heard various speakers from Freshwater Action Network, Tearfund, WWF UK, and Progressio.
 
During the meeting, Bill Cash said that he had been and would continue to take up vital concerns over water and sanitation with the Secretary of State. He then went out to Victoria Tower Gardens for an event, hosted by Wateraid, to raise awareness of the issue in which a lack of water and sanitation traps people in a vicious circle of disease, lost life chances and poverty.
 
Cash also co-signed the Early Day Motion with other MPs which states:
“That this House welcomes World Water Day taking place on 22 March; considers access to clean water and sanitation vital for a healthy life; acknowledges that for every 1 invested in water and sanitation there is an economic return of 8; recognises that one in three people globally still lack access to basic sanitation and one in eight people are without access to safe drinking water; notes the severe negative impact this has on human health, education and livelihoods; further notes that diarrhoea is the biggest killer of children under five years in Africa, and that in India over 600 million people defecate in the open; recognises that there is a need for urgent and substantial progress against the water and sanitation Millennium Development Goal targets; and urges the Government to increase significantly its ambition for the sector commensurate to the scale of the global crisis, and play an essential leadership role in Sanitation and Water for All by encouraging further donor countries to sign up.”
 
Bill Cash said:
“Having spoken to my constituent Sheryl Greentree from the charity Water for Africa only a matter of days ago on the importance of this issue, it is clear we must seriously address the problem. We must make clear the message because globally 4,000 children die every day from water and sanitation-related diseases. Globally 2.5 billion people are without somewhere safe to go to the toilet, while almost 900 million are without safe drinking water.”
 
Bill Cash World Water Day 2011
 


Bill Cash MP meets Government minister to seek answers on water and sanitation goals in the developing world

Press release 15/06/09       

Today, Bill Cash MP met with the Government minister responsible for water and sanitation, Mike Foster MP, and with several representatives from Tearfund, WaterAid and UNICEF.
 
Bill Cash is Chairman of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Water and Sanitation in the Third World and the Committee has campaigned for many years on water and sanitation issues. Diarrhoeal diseases caused by unsafe water and poor sanitation, such as cholera, typhoid and dysentery, are common across the developing world – killing 5,000 children every single day. A child dies every 15 seconds from diarrhoea, caused largely by poor sanitation and water supply. 
 
In an extremely constructive meeting and with frank exchanges, it appears that so far there are only seven countries, including Germany and some Nordic countries who have matched the United Kingdom in solving these problems. Bill Cash pointed out that sanitation and water conditions have become a critical global problem particularly for the third world and developing countries with pressure on water resources, leading to potential civil war or worse, or pestilence and disease from lack of sanitation. This occurs on a scale of significant numbers which is greater than those that cause death from AIDS and malaria put together.
 
Therefore, as the meeting reinforced Mr. Cash’s analysis and as WaterAid confirmed, water must be put at the top of the agenda and for a simple reason that although health and education are enormously important, death from bad water and sanitation eliminates those who otherwise would receive health and education. Ivan Lewis from the Foreign Office is currently in Washington and on his return, his submissions will be made available to the Water and Sanitation committee.
 
Concern was expressed in the meeting that insufficient attention was being taken in relation to the G8, despite the fact that Tony Blair, on his last day in office, wrote to Mr. Cash assuring him that Mr. Blair’s own priority was to put water and sanitation at the top of the agenda.
 
The Water and Sanitation Committee therefore calls on Gordon Brown to put the issue of water and sanitation at the top of that agenda and not only the water engineering questions – to which he appears to have relegated these matters in his expressed views on the subject. The meeting concluded that significant progress had been made in the course of discussions today and that every effort had been made to attempt to put sanitation and water to the top of the agenda for international development and 10 Downing Street.
 
The group thanked the Minister for his contribution and Mike Foster agreed to have another meeting in the reasonably near future.
 
The Committee already has the parliamentary support of more than 250 MPs in the campaign for better water and sanitation.


Bill Cash MP embarks on trip to see impact of TB and HIV/AIDS in India

Press release 04/09/09       

 
Bill Cash and five other parliamentarians are preparing to embark on a fact finding trip to India to see first-hand the impact of preventable diseases such as tuberculosis (TB) and HIV/AIDS as well as the work that the UK government is doing to help India eradicate diseases of poverty.
 
Bill Cash MP will attend alongside David Amess MP, David Borrow MP, Mark Oaten MP, Virendra Sharma MP and Lord Amir Bhatia for four days, visiting a range of health programmes, speaking with patients and health workers to gain a better understanding of the impact the diseases have on individuals, families and communities. The delegates will also meet key decision makers, officials from the Indian Ministry of Health and representatives from the UK Department for International Development.
 
The visit to India is being hosted by the international development organisation RESULTS UK. The parliamentary delegation will take place between Sunday September 6 and Thursday September 10.
 
Despite being the tenth largest economy in the world, 900 million Indians still live in poverty. For many of India’s poor, health care is out of reach, treatment is left too late, and the final costs place a huge financial burden on families. Infant, child and maternal mortality rates are not falling fast enough to meet Millennium Development Goal targets. Very high levels of under-nutrition persist and communicable diseases, such as TB, have a devastating effect on the 80% of the population that survive on less that $2 per day.    
 
India is the highest TB burden country in the world, with more than 1,000 people a day dying from the disease. The threat of drug-resistant strains of the disease as well as the deadly impact of TB/HIV co-infection means that continued UK investment in health programmes in the country is essential. The fight against TB and HIV in India is far from won.
 
Through their involvement with the UK All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Global TB as well as the APPG on HIV/AIDS and the APPG on Water and Sanitation – chaired by Bill Cash MP – visiting delegates aim to raise awareness of the growing scale and impact of epidemics and associated health threats, and to reinforce the UK’s commitment to halting the spread of the diseases. Bill Cash is Chairman of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Water and Sanitation in the Third World and the Committee has campaigned for many years on water and sanitation issues. The Committee already has the parliamentary support of more than 250 MPs in the campaign for better water and sanitation.
 
India-UK relations have never been stronger in terms of trade, economic ties, tourism, education and security. Development aid is a key tenet of this relationship, and since 2001 the Department for International Development has contributed over £200 million a year to improving the lives of India’s poor. 
 
In the current economic climate, the British public need to know that their development assistance is reaching those most in need and delivering sustainable results. In India, UK aid has helped save the lives of 1.2 million people who would otherwise have died of TB. The UK tax payer can be assured that investment in the health of India’s poor is making a real and lasting difference.
 
 
For further information
 
RESULTS UK is a non-profit advocacy organisation working to raise the public and political will to end hunger and the worst aspects of poverty.
 
RESULTS UK is currently part of a global tuberculosis advocacy project
 
‘ACTION’ (Advocacy to Control TB Internationally) ‐ which aims to generate greater financial support and political commitment to the control of TB worldwide.
 
RESULTS also host the secretariats of the APPG on Global Tuberculosis and the UK Coalition to Stop TB.
 
For further information about the work of RESULTS or the ACTION Project visit www.results-uk.org or www.action.org





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