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Progress to MDGs slowing down, says latest UN report

The latest annual report on progress made by countries in meeting the UN Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) blames the global economic downturn for slow progress in meeting the goals

The annual United Nations report on progress made in reaching the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) warns yet again that while some progress has been made, much more needs to be done to meet the targets. Progress has been slowed by the global economic crisis which has seen an increase in food prices, unemployment and a decline in funding. 

The report, released in New Delhi on July 7, 2009, tracks the progress of the eight development goals adopted by the United Nations in 2000 to reduce poverty and increase food security and healthcare by 2015.    

“We have been moving too slowly to meet our goals,” writes UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon in the report’s foreword. 

The number of people living in extreme poverty this year -- earning less than $1.25 a day -- will be 55 to 90 million higher than was expected before the global economic crisis. 

The world is unlikely to meet the target of universal primary education by 2015 although a lot of progress has been made. Gender inequality in education persists and developing regions failed to hit parity by the 2005 target date. 

In sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia particularly, rapid progress is needed to bring improved sanitation -- toilets or latrines -- to the 1.4 billion people who lack it, or the 2015 sanitation target will be missed. And slum improvements are barely keeping pace with the rapid growth of developing-country cities. 

In terms of health, mortality rates from tuberculosis are not dropping fast enough to meet the 2015 targets. Developing countries are unlikely to reduce child mortality by two-thirds, and almost negligible progress has been made on decreasing maternal mortality levels in many areas. More than one-quarter of children in developing regions are underweight for their age, and the meagre progress on child nutrition from 1990 to 2007 is insufficient to meet the 2015 target. This will likely be eroded further by high food prices and economic turmoil. Maternal health is the goal towards which least progress has been made so far. In addition, donor funding is declining for family planning, the report says. 

However, “major progress” has been made in fighting malaria and measles, and the battle against HIV and AIDS is making inroads, with a continuing trend of fewer new infections. India has really made progress in curbing the spread of AIDS and done considerably well in medication, including provision of antiretroviral treatment to around 230,000 HIV-positive patients, the report adds.  

Worldwide, the number of people newly infected with HIV peaked in 1996 and has since declined, to 2.7 million in 2007. The estimated number of AIDS deaths also appears to have peaked in 2005, at 2.2 million, and has since dropped to 2 million in 2007, partly due to increased access to antiretroviral drugs in poorer countries. Still, the number of people living with HIV worldwide -- estimated at 33 million in 2007 -- continues to grow, largely because people infected with the virus are surviving longer. 

India’s Economic Survey 2008-09, out the previous week, points to other obstacles in the path to better health in India. The survey says there is an acute shortage of trained medical personnel and adequate health centres in the country. India is short by 28,000 health centres, which includes 20,855 sub-centres, 4,833 primary health centres (PHCs) and 2,525 community health centres (CHCs). Doctors in the modern system of medicine number just 84,852. 

Almost 34% of the existing health infrastructure is in rented buildings. Poor upkeep and maintenance and high absenteeism of manpower in rural areas are major problems in the health delivery system in the public sector, the survey notes. 

Source: The Millennium Development Goals Report 2009 at, July 2009
             Indian Economic Survey 2008-09, July 2009