By Esther Nakkazi
Africa could be on track to achieve most of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) but some of its gains have been eroded by climate change, armed conflicts and unmet commitments for resources by the international community.
But this year, which marks five years to 2015, the target year for MDGs, shows that the goals are attainable though the pace of progress needs to be increased.
Recently, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon announced the development of a Joint Action Plan to be launched this month at the MDG review Summit to intensify the global effort to meet the goals.
So this September, world leaders will meet to agree on strategies and actions to meet the Goals, which represents human needs and basic rights that every individual around should enjoy.
“The world posses the resources and knowledge to ensure that even the poorest countries, and others held back by disease, geographic isolation or civil strife, can be empowered to achieve the MDGs,” said Ban Ki-Moon.
Ban Ki-Moon says meeting the goals is everyone’s business as falling short would multiply the dangers of the world.
In Africa, there are improvements made to attain the MDGs but they are slow while the hard won gains are eroded by food and economic crises as well as climate change.
Experts say Africa could have a chance to reach the target for access to clean water and it is still on track to achieve the MDG target of cutting the rate of extreme poverty in half by 2015, says the UN 2010 report.
Robust growth in the first half of the decade reduced the number of people in Africa living on less than $1.25 a day from 1.8 billion in 1990 to 1.4 billion, while the poverty rate dropped from 46 to 27 percent.
“Many countries are moving forward, including some of the poorest, demonstrating that setting bold, collective goals in the fight against poverty yields results,” says the report.
At the global level, the poverty rate is expected to fall to 15 percent by 2015, just about 920 million people living under the international poverty line, half the number in 1990.
Africa has also made strides in getting children into primary schools with enrollment reaching 89 percent. The 2010 UN report shows that the total number of children out of school decreased from 106 to 69 million in 1999-2008, almost half of the number of these in sub-Saharan Africa.
According to experts from UNESCO, this is encouraging because education is the single one intervention that is likely to have a multiplier effect on progress across all the MDGs.
One year of schooling can increase a person’s earnings by 10 percent and lift their average annual GDP by 0.37 percent, according to a UNESCO report. The girl child- has benefited from this more, as overall more girls are now in school today in Africa with at least three million more children enrolled in school in Ethiopia and more than double in Benin compared with the number in 2000.
Increase in school enrollment has been aided by the abolition of school fees for instance in Burundi, a threefold increase to 99 percent in primary school enrollment was realized in 2008. Tanzania doubled its enrollment ratio over the same period.
Strong interventions have also been made in addressing HIV/AIDS, malaria and child health for instance increasing the number of people receiving anti-retroviral drugs.
According to the 2010 MDGs report, comprehensive and correct knowledge of HIV increased by 10 percentage points or more among women aged 15-24 years.
Between 2000-2008 Rwanda reported 50 percent and more in knowledge about HIV prevention among women and similar progress was made by Namibia.
But there are two MDGs that seem to be unattainable although commitment with resources to address them has been made.
MDGs 4 and 5 which call for reductions in the number of deaths among children under 5 by two thirds, and reducing maternal deaths by three-quarters by 2015. Africa will need $32 million for interventions to attain them.
Although under five-year-old mortality rates in sub-Saharan Africa declined by 22 percent since 1990, this rate is still insufficient to meet the target.
Studies show that all the countries with under five mortality rates exceeding100 per 1,000 live births in 2008 are in sub-Saharan Africa except Afghanistan.
Less than half the women giving birth in Africa get skilled health care when giving birth, but disparities also exists in rich and poor households, says Sha Zukang, the UN under secretary General for economic and social affairs.
According to the UN 2010 report women in rich households are 1.7 times more likely to visit a skilled health worker at least once before birth than the poorest women. Also contraceptive use among educated women is four times higher than those with no education as access is a big problem.
In Africa for every woman who dies, at least 20 other suffer injuries, infections and disabilities, like obstetric fistula but Countdown to 2015 report emphasizes that almost all maternal deaths are preventable.
This is because complications during pregnancy and childbirth are the leading cause of death for women of childbearing age, which can all be dealt with. Countdown to 2015, a global scientific and advocacy movement in its 2010 report, found that 49 out of the 68 high burden countries are not on track to meet MDG 4 on child health. While Botswana, Egypt, Eritrea, Malawi and Morocco are on track to achieving improved maternal health.
The Millennium Declaration represents the most important promise ever made to the world’s most vulnerable people, says Zukang. Accelerated action needs to be done. But it is for each one of us to play a role to attain the MDGs.