For the first time since poverty trends began to be monitored, both the number of people living in extreme poverty and poverty rates fell in every developing region – including in sub-Saharan Africa, where rates are highest. This is stated in this year’s Progress Report on the UN Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), which was published in July 2012. While encouraging progress has been made in some areas, others are still lagging far behind the Goals.
According to the Progress Report on the UN Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), the share of people living on less than 1.25 US dollars a day fell from 47 to 24 percent between 1990 and 2008. Their number dropped from more than 2 billion to just under 1.4 billion. Preliminary World Bank estimates indicate that the global poverty rate at 1.25 US dollars a day fell to less than half the 1990 rate in 2010. This would suggest that the first target of the MDGs – cutting the extreme poverty rate to half its 1990 level – was already achieved five years ahead of the 2015 target line.
Between 1990 and 2010, over two billion people gained access to improved drinking water sources, such as piped supplies and protected wells. Thus the target of halving the proportion of people without sustainable access to safe drinking was also met, with the proportion of people using an improved water source rising from 76 per cent in 1990 to 89 per cent in 2010.
The Report also points to progress in combating child mortality and in primary education. The number of under-five deaths worldwide could be lowered from more than 12.0 million in 1990 to 7.6 million in 2010. The ratio between the enrolment rate of girls and that of boys at the primary level grew from 91 percent to 97 percent for all developing regions. Encouraging developments have above all been recorded in sub-Saharan Africa. Here, many countries succeeded in reducing their relatively high out-of-school rates even as their primary school age populations were growing. Enrolment rates of children of primary school age increased from 58 per cent to 76 per cent between 1999 and 2010.
However, the Report also stresses that achievements were unequally distributed across and within regions and countries. While remarkable progress was made in China and India, where the poverty rate fell from 60 to 13 per cent and 51 to 37 per cent respectively from 1990 to 2008, poverty remains widespread in sub-Saharan Africa and Southern Asia.
Moreover, progress has slowed for some MDGs after the multiple crises of 2008–2009. Decreases in maternal mortality are far from the 2015 target; even if there have been important improvements. Moreover, women continue to face discrimination in access to education, work and economic assets, and participation in government. Violence against women continues to undermine efforts to reach all goals.
Imbalances are also reflected in the urban-rural relation. Whereas 4 per cent of the urban population used unimproved sources of water in 2010, the rate in rural areas was 19 per cent. Nearly half of the population in developing regions – 2.5 billion – still lack access to improved sanitary facilities.
As welcome as success with MDG 1 may be, according to the latest estimates of the World Food Organisation, 850 million people, or 15.5 percent of the global population, are still undernourished. This continuing high level reflects the lack of progress on hunger in several regions, even though income poverty has decreased. Particularly little progress has been made regarding child under nutrition. As late as 2010, every third child in Southern Asia was underweight.
According to Ban Ki-Moon, Secretary General of the United Nations, the interim balance shows that achieving the MDGs by 2015 is challenging, but possible. Much depends on the fulfilment of MDG 8, the global partnership for development, says Ban Ki-Moon. The current economic crisis besetting much of the developed world must not result in a deceleration or reversal of the progress that has been made, he warns.