The UN’s latest MDG report, UN-Millennium Development Goals Report 2014, was launched by Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on 7 July at UN headquarters in New York. With many MDG targets already met – on poverty reduction, access to improved drinking water, life improvement for slum dwellers and gender parity in primary schooling – the new report notes that many more are within reach by the 2015 target date. If current trends continue, the world will surpass MDG targets on malaria, tuberculosis and access to HIV treatment. The hunger target also looks to be within reach.
The MDG report, which is based on comprehensive official statistics, provides the most up-to-date summary of all goals and progress towards their specific targets at global and regional levels.The findings indicate that concerted efforts to achieve MDG targets by national governments, the international community, civil society and the private sector are working by lifting people out of extreme poverty and improving their futures.
“The Millennium Development Goals were a pledge to uphold the principles of human dignity, equality and equity, and free the world from extreme poverty,” says the UN Secretary-General, adding that the MDGs, which incorporate eight goals and a set of measurable time-bound targets, have established a blueprint for tackling the most pressing development challenges of our time.
According to the report, big MDG gains are continuing. Over the past twenty years, the likelihood of a child dying before age five has been nearly halved, which means that some 17,000 children are saved every day. Globally, the maternal mortality ratio dropped by 45 per cent between 1990 and 2013. Antiretroviral therapy for HIV-infected people has saved 6.6 million lives since 1995, and many more could be saved by expanding these programmes. Between 2000 and 2012, an estimated 3.3 million deaths from malaria were averted due to a substantial expansion in malaria interventions, while efforts to fight tuberculosis have saved an estimated 22 million lives since 1995.
With the targets for the MDGs set to conclude at the end of 2015, UN Member States are in the midst of considering a broader set of goals to follow that are likely to be agreed to by world leaders in September 2015. The UN Secretary-General notes that “Member States are now fully engaged in discussions to define Sustainable Development Goals, which will serve as the core of a universal post-2015 development agenda.Our efforts to achieve the MDGs are a critical building block towards establishing a stable foundation for our development efforts beyond 2015.”
However, the report also warns that, despite major progress, some MDG targets are slipping away from achievement by 2015 even though they relate to largely preventable problems with available solutions, such as reducing child and maternal mortality and increasing access to sanitation. According to the report, almost 300,000 women died in 2013 from complications related to pregnancy and childbirth. Preventable conditions such as diarrhoea and pneumonia are the main killers for children under age five, the report warns. It also points to continuing nutritional failings: in 2012, an estimated 25 per cent of children under the age of five were stunted, in the sense of having inadequate height for their age. While this represents a significant decline from 40 per cent in 1990, 162 million young children still suffer from preventable chronic undernutrition.
With regard to sanitation, the report notes that, despite improved access to drinking water and sanitation facilities, one billion people still resort to open defecation. And the vast majority (82 per cent) of people forced to practice open defecation live in populous countries, like India, that are now middle-income.
The report calls on all stakeholders to focus and intensify efforts on the areas where advances have been too slow or not achieved at all.
Critical statement by Deutsche Welthungerhilfe
Deutsche Welthungerhilfe has given the latest UN Millennium Development Goals Report a mixed reception. The German NGO welcomes the success stories recorded in the report, such as the halving of global poverty, the improved access to drinking water, higher school enrollment rates and the combatting of HIV/AIDS. These advances are significantly improving the lives of people in developing countries, but Welthungerhilfe notes that the key objective of halving the proportion of undernourished and hungry people worldwide has not been achieved. The absolute figure for people without enough to eat remains, Deutsche Welthungerhilfe warns, frighteningly high at 842 million.
Progress in eradicating hunger has slowed. It is very unlikely that the target of halving the prevalence of hunger by 2015 will be met. In particular, regions such as sub-Saharan Africa and Southeast Asia are still far from meeting this goal. “The human right to food must again be given priority in the next phase,” argues Wolfgang Jamann, Secretary General of Welthungerhilfe. He also points to the fact that around two million people are still not receiving sufficient iron, vitamin A and other essential nutrients. This type of “hidden hunger”, which leads to stunting in children and other problems, must remain a major focus going forward.
For more information: UN/millenniumgoals