Today, an estimated 1.2 billion people live on less than $1 a day. The first Goal calls for halving this number, as well as the number of people who suffer from hunger, by 2015. In many developing countries, the poor live on the margins of society, benefiting little from progress. They lack education, health care, adequate shelter, personal safety, and regular income—all the things needed to improve their quality of life.
Education is a powerful instrument for reducing poverty and inequality, improving health and social well-being, and laying the groundwork for sustained economic growth. It is essential for building democratic societies and dynamic, globally competitive economies. Providing universal primary education, however, remains a great challenge: There are currently 115 million children—60 percent of them girls—not in primary school, the majority living in South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa.
Keeping children alive and healthy, and enabling them to learn and thrive through adolescence, is imperative for the future of every country. According to the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), on average in developing countries, for every 1,000 children, 100 die before the age of five. Around the world, thousands of children die every year from preventable causes: illnesses caused by contaminated water, inadequate immunization, injuries from war and civil conflict, high levels of poverty and malnutrition, HIV/AIDS and the high incidence of malaria and tuberculosis.
In both rich and poor countries, gender discrimination persists, and its consequences are difficult to ignore. Nowhere is this more apparent than in some developing countries, where traditional beliefs and practices put a high premium on boys’ education, while girls are excluded. Even when girls start school, they are more likely to drop out for these reasons. Without at least a complete primary education, women face limited employment options, discrimination, lower pay, and less control over their health and well-being.
In 2000, more than half a million women died in childbirth or from pregnancy-related complications. Ninety-nine percent of these deaths, many of them preventable, occur in developing countries. Infections, severe blood loss and unsafe abortions account for the majority of deaths. Goal 5 calls for reducing the rate of maternal mortality by 75 % by 2015.