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African Union leaders: can you hear us?

It takes a special moment in a campaign to be able to feel the buzz and excitement mixed with tension and anxiety as people start to come out into the streets in their masses to demand action from leaders at a key meeting or event. To be able to feel that atmosphere when you’re not even close to the activity yourself means there’s really something happening out there!

This is how I feel about the activity that has started to build leading us up to the African Union Summit which kicks off next week.

As African Union leaders are preparing to leave their countries and travel to Kampala, the capital of Uganda, for an important summit focussed on Maternal and Child health, they will find it difficult to drown out the noise of civil society both at national level and when they arrive in Kampala itself.

This is an important point for the EVERYONE campaign in Africa and for children and mothers right the way across the continent. After a disappointing G8 result it is now down to African leaders to show that progress can be made in Africa and that African leaders are committed to making sure they will do all they can to make reaching Millennium Development Goals 4 and 5 a reality.

Save the Children, alongside a wider variety of partners and civil society organisations, is calling them to act as leaders and to see this as potentially one of the last opportunities for them to make real progress towards improving maternal newborn, child and maternal health.

Starting on the day of the African Child (which was 16 June) mothers, children and civil society organisations came together in a wide variety of public activities, mobilizing communities across 12 countries to demand their governments commit to spending more of their budgets on health. With many governments delivering strong promises back to their people and putting out strong calls to donor governments to support them in their efforts, the momentum has truly begun to build up to the summit.

A wide range of organisations have come together and have sent their delegations off to the summit with Save the Children’s four key policy calls fixed firmly in their minds. Hopefully leaders will get the message that people are anxiously waiting to see the result of the summit on their return to their countries.

At a regional level a caravan has been passing through Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda and Uganda gathering real stories of the experiences of mothers and children, and the problems they have had accessing healthcare, from across the continent. The caravan has collected support for reducing needless deaths as it passes from community to community.

This was due to land in Kampala today to join a huge rally of 10,000 people with giant puppets and a giant map of Africa made into a puzzle which highlights who is on track and off track. Unfortunately this rally has had to be cancelled due to security restrictions in Kampala due to the recent bombings in the capital.

However, the pressure will continue to grow. The Youth Summit kicks off Monday followed by a civil society summit before the heads of state sit down to meet between the 25th-27th.

If we can hear the voices of civil society across Africa when we’re sitting in our office in London, it’s impossible to imagine that leaders can’t hear them from the Summit in Kampala. Lets hope they listen.

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