Millennium Development Goals 13 years on, how far have we come?

via Millennium Development Goals 13 years on, how far have we come? – The Information September 25, 2013

Members of the United Nations have less than two years left to achieve the Millennium Development Goals they set for themselves in 2000.

Heads of state from Robert Mugabe, President of Zimbabwe, to David Cameron, UK Prime Minister, have travelled to New York for the 15th United Nations Millennium Development Goals Summit. They are there to assess progress against the benchmarks set for global progress in 2000.

According to the 2000 summit attendees, by 2015 we should have:

• eradicated extreme poverty and hunger

• achieved universal primary education

• eliminated gender disparity in education

• reduced the under-five mortality rate to less than one third of 1990 levels

• reduced the maternal mortality rate to a quarter of 1990 levels

• provided universal access to reproductive healthcare

• halted and begun to reverse the spread of HIV/AIDS and malaria

• achieved universal access to HIV/AIDS treatment

• halved the number of people without access to basic sanitation and clean drinking water

They may seem like lofty goals but, as Dr Namanga Ngongi said in 2000 whilst World Food Programme deputy executive director: “Why should we in the year 2000 still be talking about the basic needs of people, of food, of basic health, of shelter, of going to school, things which are so clear?”

Despite the sad reality that some goals will almost certainly be missed, great progress has been made.

Extreme poverty was halved five years ahead of schedule in 2010. However, that still leaves 1.2 billion people living in poverty today.

Developing-world primary school enrollment reached 90 per cent in 2010, up from 82 per cent in 1990.

Sadly, in almost all areas women are at far greater disadvantage because of international failure to match economic success with social progress.

Gender disparities in education are also closing, although a significant gap still exists. According to United Nations (UN) benchmarks, only two out of 130 member countries have achieved gender equality across all levels of education.

61 per cent of 15 – 24 year olds lacking basic reading and writing skills are young women. Similarly, for every 100 literate young men there are still only 95 literate young women.

Globally, the maternal mortality rate has halved since 1990. In Eastern Asia, Northern Africa and Southern Asia it has fallen by the targeted three quarters.

Unfortunately, the figures are dragged down by the nearly 50 million babies born annually without any skilled care. In the developing world only half of all mothers receive sufficient antenatal care. This results in developing-world maternal mortality rates being 15 times higher than those in the developed world.

Improvements in universal access to reproductive healthcare have been considerable. The UN says that family planning services are slowly meeting women’s needs. However, it also worries that demand for these services is constantly growing.

Use of contraceptives, which benefited from a huge rise in popularity in the 1990s, has plateaued in the last decade. Teenagers in developing regions are having fewer children though, although progress in this area has slowed too.

Despite 17,000 fewer children under five dying every day compared to 1990, 6.6 million children died before their fifth birthday last year. Children in sub-Saharan Africa make up a disproportionate amount of these deaths with one out of every nine born dying less than five years later.

One area that has experienced significant improvements is the fight against HIV/AIDS. The number of people living with HIV is increasing, but this is a positive sign that fewer people are dying from AIDS-related deaths.

Although 2.5 million people are infected with HIV each year, significant breakthroughs are being made in the prevention and curing of the virus.

Sadly, condom use and HIV-transmission awareness is still poor among young people, leaving them vulnerable to infection. Although great breakthroughs have been made in the use of vaginal rings as a preventative measure.

The summit is likely to be overshadowed by the Syria crisis. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon used his state-of-the-world address on Tuesday to urge world leaders to seize the diplomatic momentum in recent months to reach a resolution.

Development charity Oxfam has warned that the Millennium Development Goals are “way off target” and human rights charity Amnesty International has urged those attending the summit not to allow basic human rights to be trampled on in the scramble for wider social progress.