Progress on the MDGs?

The 2009 MDG Report (pdf), leading into the 2010 MDG review conference that represents the last major recommitment before 2015, is both promising and disturbing.  Actual progress has been made, but the economic crisis is cutting severely into those gains, and, at this pace, the world will fall far short of achieving the Goals.

Overall, the number of people living in poverty (under $1.25 a day) had dropped by 400 million from 1990 to 2005 (1.4 billion) despite the growth in world population, an astounding number that, on its own, is proof that the Goals are achievable. However, the economic crisis chiseled away at that progress, and 90 million more people are expected to be added back to those rolls this year.  Success in reducing hunger worldwide is likewise being reversed.

That news was delivered to the Hill last week at a well-attended briefing helmed by Anita Sharma, North American Coordinator of the Millennium Campaign, Francesca Perucci from UN Stats, and Dan Carucci, Vice President for Global Health at UNF. 

Carucci delivered good news on Goal 4. Deaths of children under the age of five dropped from 12.6 million a year in 1990 to 9 million a year in 2007. He specifically pointed out the dramatic surge in the delivery of bed-nets to combat malaria in Africa and the success of measles vaccination programs. The world is also nearing the goal of universal enrollment in primary education , particulary in southeast Asia and sub-Saharan Africa, where enrollment increased by 11 and 15 percent respectively between 2000 and 2007.

On every other mark though, we’re far behind pace. The most stark reminder came from Carucci: “in 2000 500,000 women died while giving birht, 500,000 died in 2005, and 500,000 will die this year.”  That is to say, there has been zero progress on Goal 5, reducing the maternal mortality rate by 75 percent.

The report overall is fascinating.  It’s rare that you get an engaging accessment of how the entire world is working toward achieving collective goals. I highly recommend at least skimming the whole thing (pdf).