Home >politics >policy >Countries meet poverty reduction goal, but trip on maternal health

New Delhi: The latest assessment of the United Nations Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) has revealed that the world has reached the poverty reduction target five years ahead of schedule with the incidence of extreme poverty declining across the globe.

The MDGs are common targets aimed at poverty reduction in the Millennium Declaration signed by 189 countries, including 147 heads of state and government, in September 2000.

According to the Millennium Development Goals Report 2013, which will be launched on Friday in India, even in developing regions, the proportion of people living on less than $1.25 a day fell from 47% in 1990 to 22% in 2010. The MDG target was to halve the proportion of people living under $1 a day by 2015.

The target of halving the population without access to safe drinking water has also been achieved five years ahead of schedule. However, the report adds that 768 million people still drew water from an unimproved source in 2011. Meanwhile, the health-related target of reducing child and maternal mortality is unlikely to be achieved.

The report also flagged the slow progress in achieving targets related to child mortality and improvement of maternal health. While maternal mortality rates (MMR) have dropped globally, “too many women around the world are still dying in childbirth when we have the means to save them", states the report.

The latest findings show that only 53% of births in rural areas are attended by skilled health personnel.

In the past two decades, MMR has globally declined by 47%, from 400 deaths per 100,000 live births in 1990 to 210 in 2010. The under-five mortality rate (U5MR) has dropped by 41%—from 87 deaths per 1,000 live births in 1990 to 51 in 2011, but children continue to remain at risk of dying before the age of five if born in rural areas or to a mother denied basic education.

According to the MDG goals relating to HIV, tuberculosis and malaria, these were to have halted by 2015 and begun to reverse.

The report noted that, due to targeted interventions, the burden of communicable diseases such as HIV, TB and malaria have declined in the past two decades.

However, despite decreasing incidence of HIV in most regions, nearly 2.5 million new infections are reported annually. According to the MDG 2013 report, HIV remains the leading cause of death for women of reproductive age globally with one woman dying every minute.

In 2011, eight million people were receiving antiretroviral therapy (ART) for HIV. Between 2000 and 2010, mortality rates from malaria fell by over 25%, saving nearly 1.1 million lives. Nearly 20 million lives were saved between 1995 and 2011 by providing treatment to tuberculosis patients.

The development agenda of universal access to primary education is also encouraging as more children are now in schools than ever before. According to newly released data, enrolment in primary education in developing regions has reached up to 90% in 2011, up from 82% in 1999. However, the progress on primary school enrolment has slowed since 2004 making it unlikely that the MDG target of achieving universal primary education by 2015 would be met.

Issues of gender inequality have also been raised in the report with persisting gaps in employment.

“Globally, 40 out of 100 wage-earning jobs in the non-agricultural sector are held by women. But women still enter the labour market on an unequal basis to men, even after accounting for educational background and skills," stated the report.

According to the report, as of 31 January, the average share of female parliamentarians worldwide was just over 20% and at the current rate of change, it will take nearly 40 years to reach gender parity in parliaments.

There is not much to cheer about with regard to the MDG target of developing a non-discriminatory trading and financial system. The report stated that in 2012, there had been a 4% drop in net official development assistance (ODA) from developed countries, which stood at $125.6 billion, representing 0.29% of donors’ combined gross national income. This is a 4% drop in real terms from 2011, which was 2% below the 2010 level. The silver lining, however, is that aid is increasingly directed towards gender issues. In 2010–2011, out of $91.9 billion of sector-allocable aid, $20.5 billion focused on the achievement of gender equality and women’s empowerment.

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