Monday, September 15, 2008

Africa falling behind on millennium development goals

More than half-way to the 2015 deadline of the millennium development goals (MDG), it has become clear that the achievement of all eight goals would not be reached by any African country.

This statement was made at the 2008 Millennium Development Report launch, in Sandton on Friday. United Nations (UN) development programme macroeconomics specialist for poverty reduction, Udo Etukudo, said that based on the current trends, no African country was likely to achieve all the goals.

He noted that fragile and post-conflict countries faced particular challenges in generating momentum to reduce poverty, and to make advances on improving living standards.

The proportion of people in sub-Saharan Africa living below the World Bank’s international poverty line has decreased from 55,7% in 1990, to 50,3% in 2005. However, because of the population growth, the number of people in the region living in extreme poverty, grew by 100-million over this period.

Etukudo said that the latest estimates of global poverty headcount, released by the World Bank in August this year, suggested that the number of people living in extreme poverty in 2005, bordered on 1,4-billion.

He added that the proportion of people in the world suffering from malnutrition and hunger had fallen since the early 1990s, however the number of people with insufficient access to food had risen. 

“Most of the poor in developing countries are net food buyers. With the increase in food prices, about one-billion people go hungry, while at least another two-billion are undernourished. The food price spikes are believed to have pushed over 100-million more people into extreme poverty.”

The second MDG was universal primary education, and Etukudo said that achieving this goal would mean full primary enrolment. He noted that this still posed a significant barrier to the MDGs, and that projections suggested that without further acceleration, 58 out of the 86 countries would not reach the goal by 2015.

With regard to the third MDG, that of promoting gender equality and empowerment, Etukudo said that sub-Saharan Africa, Oceania, and Western Asia had the largest gender gaps in primary enrolment. At the current rate, the third MDG remained far from being achieved.

Despite the progress in many countries to reduce the child mortality rate, the rates were stagnant or getting worse. Malnutrition and lack of access to quality health care and infrastructure was adding to death among children, Etukudo said.

Sub-Saharan Africa had one-fifth of the world’s children under five years of age, but accounted for one-half of all child deaths in the developing world.

The fifth MDG, that if improving maternal health, has seen a decrease of less than 1% between 1990 and 2005. In sub-Saharan Africa, the progress was negligible. Only 47% of births were attended to by skilled personnel in this region, which accounted for its great number of maternal deaths.

The combat against HIV, malaria and tuberculosis (TB) was also struggling. Etukudo said that the number of infected individuals was expected to continue to grow in sub-Saharan Africa, and to remain near current levels worldwide, because of the life-prolonging effect of antiretroviral treatments.

Access to this treatment rose by 42% in 2007, largely financed by the Global Fund to Fight Aids, TB and malaria. By the end of 2007, an estimated three-million people were receiving treatment world wide, however, that was only a fraction of the 9,7-million people in need of treatment.