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July 06, 2011

UN: 2015 Millennium Development Goals Within Reach

by Lisa Schlein

The United Nations reports significant progress is being made toward reaching the Millennium Development Goals by 2015. It warns the world’s poorest people are being left behind, however, and much more must be done to lift them out of poverty and improve their lives. Those are key findings from Geneva, where U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon is launching this year’s MDG report.

What began as a broad vision 11 years ago - a vision of what a more equitable society would be like - appears to be turning into a hopeful reality for hundreds of millions of the world’s most destitute people. In 2000, the U.N. set out the Millennium Development Goals, an ambitious plan to eradicate extreme poverty, hunger, illiteracy and disease by 2015.

According to the U.N. secretary-general, the world is on track to achieve many of these goals.

“Hundreds of millions have been lifted from poverty. More people have access to education, better health care and improved access to clean drinking water," he said. "Despite the global economic downturn and the food and energy crises, we are on track to meet the MDG targets for poverty-reduction.”

The World Bank predicts global poverty will dip below 15 percent by 2015. This is well under the original target of 23 percent.  

The report says some of the poorest countries have made the greatest strides in education, with the greatest improvement recorded in Sub-Saharan Africa. It says extremely poor countries, including Burundi, Madagascar, Rwanda and Samoa, have achieved or are nearing the goal of universal primary education.

The lead author of the report, Francesca Perucci said there has been a dramatic drop in child mortality rates.

“Nearly 12,000 fewer children are dying each day. The number of deaths of children under the age of five declined from 12.4 million in 1990 to 8.1 million in 2009," said Perucci. "Between 2000 and 2008, the combination of improved immunization coverage and the opportunity for second-dose immunizations led to a 78-percent drop in measles deaths worldwide.”  

Perucci noted that these averted deaths represent one-quarter of the decline in mortality from all causes among children under five.

Important gains in other areas also are being made. For example, there has been a 20 percent reduction in malaria deaths worldwide, new HIV infections are on a steady decline, and more people with HIV or AIDS are receiving antiretroviral therapy.

While this is a cause for celebration, the report notes progress is uneven, too many people are being left behind and more must be done to help them improve their lives.  

The report notes more than 2.6 billion people still lack toilets or other forms of improved sanitation. Hundreds of millions of people do not have access to clean water. Also, nearly one-quarter of children in the developing world are underweight because they are going hungry.