Commissioned in 2000 by 189 nations at the UN summit, the Millennium Development Goals (MDG) project seeks to free people from extreme poverty and deprivation. Its pledge--the Millennium Declaration--is based on eight major targets, including eradicating extreme poverty and hunger; achieving universal primary education; promoting gender equality and empowering women; as well as reducing child mortality. The other objectives are: improving maternal health; combating HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases; environmental diseases; and developing a global partnership for development.
As the 2015 deadline for achieving this vision approaches, it is becoming likely that many African countries, despite the progress made in health delivery over the past decade, might fall short of targets 4 and 5 of the MDG, namely reducing child mortality by two-thirds of the levels in 1990 and decreasing maternal mortality ratio by 75% from the 1990 standards. Latest figures for 2011 reveal that child deaths are down to 7 million in 2011from 11 million in 1990, and maternal deaths have subsided from 400,000 in 1990 to 273,000 in 2011. Despite the tremendous progress in reducing deaths, the rate of change is not fast enough to ensure that these bold goals are met in four years' time.
This likelihood was expressed by the British medical journal Lancet, which explicitly predicts that no country in sub-Saharan Africa will meet the mother-and-child health goals of the MDG. A numbers of reasons support this prediction. According to the report, the bulk of maternal death is attributed to pregnancy complications due to HIV, thus until that is rectified, the goal will remain elusive. Furthermore, the report believes that the number of deliveries in hospitals are still very low and should be expanded to ensure that mothers get the needed attention to avoid complications.
While some opinions are that African governments are responsible for the failure of African countries to keep up with the MDG, others are more cautious to cast blame. Despite the lofty standards of these MDGs, it is true governments can do more in terms of funding health projects in their respective countries, and the United Nations secretary-general recently exhorted the governments to do more. While there remains much to be done before 2015, it is equally important to recognize how much has been done under MDG: health services have been subsidized under the program; massive immunizations have been embarked upon; ante-natal services are now available to more women; health services are now being offered round the clock for women; and treatment is available to reduce mother-to-child transmission of HIV and other infectious diseases.
Succinctly put, the Millennium Development Goals provide a framework for the implementation of the United Nation's total goals. As world leaders meet in New York at the annual UN General Assembly, this is a great time to reiterate the commitment that they made 11 years ago to improve the standard of living of the world's poor. While it is true that current economic conditions might obscure the need to stick to these goals--especially those concerning health--governments around the world must stand by their pledge. If the leaders do this, the momentum generated by the progress that would have been made by 2015 would be enough to propel other development agenda concerning the world's poor, hungry, and starving.