It is the day before politicians descend upon Lough Erne Resort, Northern Ireland, for the G8 summit. While the leaders debate transparency, tax and trade, the aid agencies call on us to remember what really matters.
‘Every year, three million children don’t live to see their fifth birthday because they don’t have enough to eat,’ said Richard Miller, of ActionAid, and spokesman for the If campaign. ‘It’s a scandal the richest countries mustn’t ignore.’
Leen (not her real name) has been living in a caravan with her mother, younger brother and two-week-old sister in Za’atari refugee camp, Jordan, for the last six months. Her family fled Syriaas a result of the civil unrest. Leen’s father, who works as a contractor, visits his family every two weeks.
“I miss my town and our house in Syria a lot; it was big and had three bedrooms. I miss my aunt Farah, who is still in Syria. I’m always dreaming of returning to Syria soon, to play with my friends there. I can still go to school and complete my lessons at the camp. My favourite subjects are Maths, Arabic and Science, and I want to be a teacher in the future. The worst thing is cleaning the toilets and the flies. Sometimes there is not enough water. In the day it is too hot and in the night it is too cold. The biggest problem is how we get back to Syria, and how to rebuild our house, which has been destroyed. I wish we had all the things that we had in our house in Syria, like the fan and the fridge. The world leaders should help us and help Syria.”
Saleh Mugyenyi lives in Bulyowa village, Uganda, with his parents, who are peasant farmers, his grandmother, his two uncles, two brothers and his six-month-old sister His parents earn just over £7 a month in commodities; they live in a brick house with an iron sheet roof. Mugyenyi wakes up at 7am and travels an hour to get to school. He likes to draw and wants to be a school teacher when he is older.
“The best thing about where I live is the surroundings – the birds. The worst thing is sometimes the lack of food and not having enough clothes. My favourite food is sweet potatoes. My family also like Kavunga [ugali] and Matooke [plantain]. Me and my brothers and sisters help to look out for each other. The food situation was worse before, but sometimes there is not enough food. Often we eat once a day. I would want [G8 leaders] to make sure there is enough food all year.”
Sadhna Pathan Naimuddin
Sadhna Pathan Naimuddin lives with her mother, father, three sisters and four brothers in one room in a cemented house, in Delhi, India. A wooden plank divides the room into both a kitchen and bedroom space. Her father, a daily wage labourer earning about £2 a day, can only work for about 6 months each year, due to poor health. The family rent out their terrace to acquire more funds.
“We have light here so we’re okay, but this place is very unclean and there is lots of garbage everywhere. The drains by the houses are always overflowing. I enjoy drawing and I like studying Hindi. My favourite food is Biryani that my mum cooks. My mum and dad’s health is poor. My brother  dropped out of school and now works in a meat shop. Life at home is a little crowded, but we’re okay. In the winters we keep close together, under a few blankets to keep warm. Sometimes I feel too cold to go to school. I would like world leaders to visit us and see how life is for us.”
Evie Watts Evans
Evie Watts Evans, from Hackney, east London, lives in a flat in a terraced street with her four-year-old brother, her mother, a photographer, and her dad, a visual content manager. Her favourite subjects at school are literacy, guided reading and music. She wants to be a fashion designer when she grows up.
“My favourite thing about where I live is having lots of friends to play with on the street. In the morning you can hear the birds sing; it’s safe because we have locks on the doors. We have lots of room and a big kitchen. My favourite foods are spicy fish curry, jelly and ice cream. The thing I worry about most is if my friend Ora is going to move away. I think world leaders should stop cutting down trees to make paper - they could help poor countries have more food.”
Iassonas Nassis lives in an apartment in Athens, Greece, with his mother, a PE teacher, his dad, a university lecturer, and his 12-year-old sister. Although the family is financially secure – they own two cars, and Nassis attends private school – they feel less secure as a result of the unrest in their country.
“My favourite thing about where we live is our garden because it’s big and we can play there. I like playing football and basketball. I help my mum with the chores. I set the table and sometimes, I sweep the balcony. I pick my stuff up and I help her when we go to the supermarket. We watch on telly that some people don’t have enough to eat in Greece. I would like for the world leaders to change things so that there wouldn’t be so many poor people in Greece and in the world. This would make me feel better.”
May Myat Naing
May Myat Naing, from Myaing town, Myanmar, lives with her older sister and her mum, in a bamboo hut with a palm leaf roof. Her father died seven years ago, leaving her mother to fend for the family. Her four brothers work in Thailand and China, sending money back to support the family. Naing wakes up at 5.30am every day to deliver her mother’s fried vegetables to local villagers; the family earns 68p a day through this business. Naing hopes to be a school teacher when she grows up.
“Life is good at home; it is more enjoyable now because we have food, although I do not see my brothers very often. My favourite thing is the [outdoor communal] table where we eat food and sit together. In the winter the house is very cold; the worst thing is the sleeping room because it is uncomfortable sleeping on the floor. It is my duty to go and buy clean water, five times a day, from another village which is thirty minutes on my bicycle. I wish [the G8] could make it so that families stay living together.”
Loudmilla Joseph lives in Pétion-Ville, Haiti, with her mother, a former charcoal seller who is now out of work, her father, a mason, and her three brothers and sisters, in a small one-room concrete house, near a ravine. Her father earns around $100 a month if he finds work, but it is not regular. Joseph wakes up at 4am; it takes her an hour to get to school. She loves science and wants to become a nurse.
“My favourite thing about where I live is that it is calm, but it is not safe because of floods. My mother wants to move to a different country that can offer good living conditions; my brother wants to live in a real house. My father, mother and us children all sleep in the same room. We don’t always have enough to eat, because the money my father makes is not always enough. The main thing I worry about is the future. I think the world leaders should make things cheaper so we can afford them.”
Maria Eduardo Do Nascimento Da Costa
Maria Eduarda Rodrigues da Costa lives with her mother, an NGO worker, her father, a metal extractor, and her older sister in a two bedroom brick house inside one of the 16 favelas that make up the drug-riddled Maré Favela Complex in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
“My favourite thing is to play in the street in front of my house with friends. But I can only play in the evenings because I go to school in the morning and to extra classes in the afternoon. My favourite subject is Maths and I want to be a vet when I grow old. The worst thing is the garbage in the streets, the bad smell and the floods. My mother worries about violence in the neighbourhood; sometimes I do not have to go to class because of [it].”
I want to have a bigger house and move in with my grandmother. I think it is calmer there, and I want [us] all to live together. I worry about fire guns and violence. I would like to have more security and I would like to ask the world leaders to pave our streets.”
Saleh, Sadhna and May are sponsored children with ActionAid. Find out more about how to support children in poor countries: actionaid.org.uk/child