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OTTAWAOxfam Canada and the Canadian Union of Public Employees join Oxfam International in launching a global call for “Health and Education For All” today, aimed at increasing financial and political support for strong public services, including the hiring of six million more teachers, nurses and doctors in the global south.

The campaign calls on developing country governments to allocate an increased proportion of their annual budgets into providing these vital public services. It also demands that rich countries support poorer nations with an increased and long-term aid commitment targeting the health and education sectors.

Oxfam International’s “For All” campaign briefing, released today, shows universal education and health services are possible in even the poorest countries. It shows that public services make a dramatic difference in ending poverty, particularly for women and girls. For example, Uganda and Brazil have doubled the number of children in school, halved AIDS deaths and extended safe drinking water and sanitation to millions of people. In Sri Lanka, where one-third of the population lives below the poverty line, public clinics with free medical treatment and qualified nurses are within walking distance.

In Canada, Oxfam and CUPE have joined forces to engage Canadians in the challenge to sign the global petition and to pressure the Canadian government to provide more and better aid. Equally important is a commitment to ensure that Canadian development assistance doesn’t fund privatization, and that Canada stop promoting privatization through international finance institutions like the World Bank.

Public health workers and teachers are heroes who are delivering health care and education against almost impossible odds.  We need 6 million more like them, and it is an achievable goal.” said Robert Fox, executive director for Oxfam Canada. “The ‘For All’ campaign is calling on every government in the world to take the responsibility for providing quality basic public services for all its citizens.  We are calling on Canada to increase direct budget support to poor country governments to help them reach their health and education goals.”

Public services are powerful anti-poverty tools.  We owe it to every woman, man and child to give them a fighting chance in life and I can think of no better way than joining this call for action,” says CUPE National President Paul Moist. “And let’s learn from privatization’s many problems in Canada. We must not export this failed model to countries building their health, water, sanitation and education systems.”

The campaign is clear that people living in poverty don’t want charity; they want the opportunity to build better lives. Without basic public services, people have a hard time working their way out of poverty. This is especially the case for women and girls, who must battle entrenched discrimination. Oxfam and CUPE plan to campaign for improved public services in Canada as well, including the dismal state of water systems in some First Nations communities.

Globally, Oxfam is aiming to gather six million signatures on its petition by 2010 – the number of qualified teachers and health workers needed globally to give every child the chance to be healthy and have an education.

Working with allies around the world, “For All” will hold developed and developing countries to account to ensure that they keep their promises to ensure that health and education for all becomes a reality.

If governments and citizens get behind this call for action, we can change the prospects for millions of women and children in our lifetime.  The global petition which started today will show leaders around the world that the public demands health and education for all,” says Fox.

Campaign information is available at www.oxfam.ca and www.cupe.ca

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For more information:
Alexandra Lopoukhine, Oxfam Communications, 613-237-5236 x 222 or 613 850 9723
Paul Moist, CUPE National President, 613-558-2873 (cell)
Catherine Louli, CUPE Communications, 613-851-0547