Sunday, October 6, 2013

The United Nations' Millennium Development Goals

On September 23, the United Nations hosted a "high-level forum" to discuss its Millenium Development Goals. These MDGs, as they're abbreviated, were adopted in 2000 and have a target date set for 2015.

So what are these Goals anyway? They are a set of goals focused on improving basic areas of health, including the eradication of extreme poverty and hunger, reducing child mortality, improving maternal health, and combating HIV/AIDS, malaria, and other diseases in all areas of the world. And though there have been some improvements in these areas, we have a ways to go until all the Goals are met.

For example, maternal mortality related to childbirth has declined to 210 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births in 2010 from 400 deaths per 100,000 births in 1990. Sounds pretty promising, right? Well, the bad news is that there is still a long way to go to meet the 2015 goal of only 100 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births -- partially due to the fact that many countries with high maternal death rates continue to struggle with lack of prenatal care, assistance during childbirth, and broad contraception use.

Another partial success is the decline of death rates for children under age 5, which dropped to 51 deaths per 1,000 live births in 2011 from 87 in 1990. Still, nearly 7 million such children died in 2011, mostly from preventable diseases, and as many as 1 in 9 children in sub-Saharan Africa die before age 5. The goal to reduce the death toll to 4.3 million deaths may be achievable; after all, Bangladesh and Liberia have reduced their death rates to meet their 2015 goals. But clearly, there is still work to be done.

Finally, the goal to provide retroviral therapy to all people infected with HIV has not been easy to reach: 10 million people today are in treatment, and the goal is to treat 15 million people. Even this, though, is less than the 26 million in less well-developed countries who could use the treatment.

Some of the longer-term goals like eradicating extreme poverty and protecting the environment through sustainable development of natural resources, which are set for 2030, may not even reach their halfway mark unless more efforts are made. Still, we do seem to be moving in the right direction, so these goals may someday be attainable. Now's the time to make a difference!

Marisa M.

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