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Wednesday, 8 December 2004

An Open Invitation To Mr Gordon Brown

Gordon Brown urges aid agencies to hold ministers to account for progress made in writing off African debt. Would this be similar to holding ministers to account for going to war in Iraq? Because that’s proved really effective.

I’d like to extend an open invitation here to any government ministers wishing to witness poverty for themselves. Talk is cheap, come live it. You are more than welcome to visit our project.

We will set you up in a thatched hut. You will have no electricity so you’d better get used to being in darkness a lot and cooking over some coals. You can break a little sweat digging a pit latrine, but you’d better do a good job, cos when the rains come you don’t want sewage running in to your house.

You can walk several kilometres every day to fetch dirty water that will make you sick. You can live on a diet of maize porridge and the occasional bit of spinach and beans.

You can single-handedly look after a household of about ten people, including several orphans and a couple of people dying of AIDS. Oh, that’s without medication by the way. You can take charge of burying your babies that have died from malaria straight in a hole in the ground. Who can afford a funeral?

Of course you’ll have a lot of kids to help you with all this, because there’s no school nearby for them to go to. Don't worry about clothing these kids, you've got no way of ever getting to a town to buy new kit, so they can just wear rags. Maybe you can beat the depression by becoming an alcoholic?

When you’ve finished with that, maybe you’d like to visit some of the villages we have been able to help so far, just to show you that life doesn’t have to be like this. It can change. But you have to start giving a shit. Welcome, Mr Gordon Brown, any old time you like.