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UK Politics

'We must focus on eradicating extreme poverty': Liberia needs international help, says David Cameron on visit to the country


David Cameron today arrived in the West African state of Liberia and called for the next wave of international development targets to focus on extreme poverty.

Mr Cameron is jointly chairing a high-level UN panel with the country's president Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf to decide what targets to bring in after the Millennium Development Goals expire in 2015.

Speaking before the meeting Mr Cameron said his focus would be pushing to direct aid spending at the very poorest people.

“Liberia is a country that was absolutely devastated by conflict and civil war,” he said.

“It is now recovering but there is still desperate poverty. I think it is very important we keep a focus on eradicating extreme poverty.

“Here in Liberia, one in 10 children do not make it to the age of five. But I also think it is important we look at those things that keep countries poor. Conflict, corruption, lack of justice, lack of the rule of law.

“These things matter as well as money.”

Before the meeting Mr Cameron visited the Anna F Whisnant Elementary school with the country's president, 74-year-old Ellen Johnson Sirleaf.

Meeting children in the playground outside the school, he asked them all what they wanted to do. Many of them said they wanted to be doctors, lawyers and even government ministers.

Asked by Mr Cameron what they would do if they ran the school, one child replied: “Open a library.”

Mr Cameron replied: “If you ask children in the UK, all they want to be is pop stars and footballers."

Mr Cameron has strongly defended the aid spending despite the austerity being imposed to balance the country's books.

However, the Government has yet to fulfil its commitment to enshrine the GDP ratio in law.

The next round of development goals are due to run from 2015 to 2030.

Mr Cameron favours targets that focus on eradicating absolute poverty over the period.