Urging our nation's leaders to end hunger

Halftime on the MDGs

(Special thanks to International Policy Intern Diana Smith for her help on this piece!)

July 2007 marks the halfway point for the Millennium Development Goals, a set of 8 targets to help the world’s poorest countries develop. Seven and a half years ago, 189 nations around the world signed the Millennium Declaration, which states that leaders “have a collective responsibility to uphold the principles of human dignity, equality and equity at the global level.” These signatory nations also set eight specific targets for the year 2015, known collectively as the Millennium Development Goals.
How are we doing at this mid-point check in?

Goal 1: Between 1990 and 2015, halve the proportion of people who suffer from hunger and who live on less than one dollar a day.

Assessment: Hunger is decreasing around the world, but progress is uneven. Eastern Asia has reduced hunger dramatically, but Sub-Saharan Africa and Western Asia are not on track to meet the 2015 goals.

Goal 2: Ensure that by 2015, all boys and girls will be able to complete a full course of primary schooling.

Assessment: In the developing world, 88% of primary school-aged children are enrolled. Girls, minorities and rural populations face the greatest barriers to education. Sub-Saharan Africa has increased enrollment most dramatically, but they must increase another 30% in order to reach the goal of universal primary education.

Goal 3: Promote gender equality and empower women.

Assessment: Girls are achieving parity in primary school enrollment around the world.  Although female participation in governments has risen worldwide, women currently hold only 17% of elected positions. Rates are particularly low in Northern Africa, Western Asia and Oceania. Women still face barriers to employment around the world, including lower wages and hiring discrimination.

Goal 4: Reduce by two-thirds the mortality rate of children under five.

Assessment: Child mortality rates are slowly decreasing, although not fast enough to meet 2/3 reduction goal by 2015. Each year, 10.1 million children die before their fifth birthday; most of these deaths are preventable. One health big improvement, though, is in vaccinations; measles deaths decreased by 75% in Sub-Saharan Africa between 2000 and 2005.

Goal 5: Reduce by three-fourths the maternal mortality rate.

Assessment: The proportion of deliveries with a skilled attendant has increased in nearly all developing countries. However, maternal mortality remains high in Sub-Saharan Africa and Southern Asia.

Goal 6: Halt and begin to reverse the spread of HIV/AIDS, malaria and other major diseases.

Assessment: Overall, the number of people living with HIV has increased. The spread of AIDS is slowing in Africa, but increasing in Eastern Europe. More people have access to treatment, but prevention must be intensified in order to meet the 2015 goals. Malaria still kills an estimated 1.2 million people each year. However, increasing distribution of insecticide-treated bed nets should help to reduce the incidence of malaria in coming years.

Goal 7: Ensure environmental sustainability. Reduce by half the number of people without access to safe drinking water. Achieve improvements in the lives of at least 10 million slum dwellers by 2020.

Assessment: Globally, access to clean water has improved from 71% in 1990 to 80% in 2004. However, progress in Africa has been slow, and international aid for water and sanitation has declined.

Goal 8: Develop a global partnership for development, including more and better development aid, trade reform and debt relief.

Assessment: Development aid decreased in 2006, and is expected to continue to fall in 2007. The U.S. gives around .23% of its Gross National Product to development assistance, and only .08% goes specifically towards poverty reduction. Trade talks that would help developing countries are collapsing. Debt relief, however, is one area in which rich countries have matched promises with action.

Overall, progress is mixed. I hope that with continued attention to global development issues, innovative new approaches and sustained development aid, we can finally overcome extreme poverty in our world. We should use this halftime as any good coach would – as a time to assess, strategize and renew enthusiasm. We have the resources; we can meet these goals. Let’s make sure we do!


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