“Talent is universal — opportunity is not.” 

This phrase is reflective of the inequality that persists for millions of children across sub-Saharan Africa. Estimates show that a child born in the region today will only reach 40% of his or her potential, compared to if they’d received full education and health care growing up. And not only will the child suffer — but also their family and economy, too. 

Over the last 15 years, enormous progress has been made. The percentage of people living in extreme poverty across Africa has fallen dramatically, from 56% in 1990 to 43% in 2012 — and there are countless examples of countries making progress in ensuring every child can survive and thrive. 

But this progress hasn’t been equal, and many countries have a long way to go in ensuring that every child born has access to good health care, education, and food. One in 10 babies born in Nigeria today won’t survive until their fifth birthdays — and for those that do survive, almost half will experience stunted growth due to a lack of good nutrition. This is an avoidable tragedy that governments must step up to address.

The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) is a political and economic union of 15 countries, and they have the power to change this. It includes countries like Nigeria, where the number of people living in extreme poverty is rising, and Ghana, where it’s dropping rapidly — but all governments have some distance to go to ensure every citizen can reach their full potential. 

This week, the president of the ECOWAS Commission issued a rallying call to finance ministers from all countries in the union — calling on them to step up with incredible new pledges of $1 billion to health care, nutrition, agriculture, and sanitation to address this issue. Now, it’s up to us to press them to act.

Add your name to our petition and over the next year, we’ll hand it over to as many ministers as possible, asking them to take urgent action in 2020.