For thousands of children in Syria, summer vacation is no longer about taking a break from their hectic school lives. On the contrary, with displacement and violence regularly interrupting normal classes, many children around the country used their summer break to visit school clubs and catch up on lost school days.
This country needs a foreign policy, but increasingly it has two. One is NATO summits, and conference calls with the White House: a global player, but whose star is on the wane. The other is as a self-declared aid superpower. DFID appears as a new Colonial Office whose role is to manage relations with poor countries.
In a taped recording he left to be played in the event of his assassination, Harvey Milk, America's first openly gay elected official, left a message for our times. "All young people," he said, "regardless of their sexual orientation or identity, deserve a safe and supportive environment to achieve their full potential." Nowhere is the world further from that goal than in Africa.
The call for DFID to make concrete commitments to include people with disabilities has been growing over the last decade. 2014 marks the year where these calls have been heard. We look forward to working with DFID to ensure people with disabilities are at the heart of the decisions to come, the impact of which could change the lives of millions.
As a Brit, I am proud that our government is spending 0.7% of our GDP on international development; but I am concerned that we have failed to understand the pervasive inequality facing people with learning disabilities. We must commit to correcting this failure and bringing about the more just world that the architects of the MDGs had in mind... but how?
You may be surprised to learn that over the past decade, a third of the money pledged by aid donors for water and sanitation has failed to be delivered. That's US$27.6 billion out of the US$81.2 billion committed since 2002. This is a staggering amount of money. It could have helped hundreds of millions of people gain access to water and sanitation.
The public is increasingly engaged and motivated to act. The relevant policy is in place and front line professionals are being slowly equipped with the tools and information they need to ensure that FGM is streamlined into their child safeguarding procedures. There is no reason to continue to fail our girls.
Words cannot describe the hopelessness I felt emanating from these camps, and I am not surprised that so many families decide to take the next step and leave Syria altogether. If we could just get access and reach them, it might not solve the conflict, but it would lessen the burden for families who have lost everything and ease the pressure on neighbouring countries.
If you have any doubt as to why we think the UK's Department for International Development should prioritise disability, look no further than the situation of Esther Cheelo. Blind, elderly and with difficulty walking, Esther has for years relied upon a child to walk her into the scrubland near her home in Zambia to find a place to relieve herself, a humiliating and sometimes dangerous experience...
While the seasons and the landscape change in Syria, so much about the country's protracted conflict is unchanging and unrelenting. Thousands of people killed each month, atrocities on both sides, and thousands more fleeing the country as refugees. Millions living in limbo, some out of reach of humanitarian aid, when all they want is peace and a chance for normal life to resume.
People with disabilities are being excluded from international development work across the world. I can say that with confidence - or at least, I think I can. The reality is that the picture is unclear because no one bothers to count the number of children with disabilities in school or the percentage of women with disabilities accessing support for domestic violence.