Sun, Jul 13, 2014 - Page 9 News List

UN urges final push on global targets for women, children

By Liz Ford  /  The Guardian

Achieving global targets to reduce maternal and child deaths and increase access to improved sanitation facilities by next year is “slipping away,” despite significant progress in the past 14 years, the UN has said.

In its annual assessment of where the world stands on meeting the eight millennium development goals (MDGs), set in 2000, the UN urged governments to intensify efforts on areas where little or no improvement had been made, in the final push toward next year’s deadline.

According to the MDG 2014 report, which was published on Monday, the number of children dying before they reach five has almost halved in the past 20 years, the global maternal mortality ratio has dropped by 45 percent, an estimated 3.3 million deaths from malaria have been averted and the global target to improve access to safe water has been met. More goals were within reach if current trends continued, the report said.

Despite these achievements, however, the report, which draws on data compiled between 2010 and this year by more than 28 UN and international agencies, emphasized that only half of pregnant women in developing countries get the recommended four antenatal checkups, diarrhea and pneumonia continue to be the main killers of under-fives, and 162 million children were experiencing preventable chronic undernutrition. More than 1 billion people still resort to open defecation, the majority of whom live in middle-income countries.

Last month, the UN admitted there was no chance the goal for universal primary education would be met by next year.

In the foreword to the report, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said: “The concerted efforts of national governments, the international community, civil society and the private sector have helped expand hope and opportunity for people around the world. However, more needs to be done to accelerate progress. We need bolder and focused action where significant gaps and disparities exist.”

The MDGs, signed by all UN member states, have been lauded for galvanizing global action to end extreme poverty and hunger, achieve universal primary education, promote gender equality, reduce child mortality, improve maternal health, combat HIV, AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria, ensure environmental sustainability and develop international partnerships.

However, progress has been uneven between and within countries and regions. Many states will not achieve all of the goals by the deadline next year; some will not meet any. Based on regional averages, sub-Saharan Africa, for example, is not expected to meet any of the targets, except in halting or reversing the spread of HIV and AIDS, which it could achieve if momentum is maintained. East, Southeast and South Asia, meanwhile, are making progress in all categories.

The goals related to women — gender equality and reducing maternal and child deaths — are the most off-track. Last year, the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) said the target to reduce child mortality by two-thirds would not be achieved until 2028 at the current rate of progress.

The 2010 deadline for achieving universal access to antiretroviral treatment that controls HIV, contained in MDG six, has been missed and is unlikely to be reached by next year without greater attention.

Though the UN has called for a final push to meet the MDGs, an intergovernmental working group is drawing up plans for a new set of targets from Jan. 1, 2016. The sustainable development goals (SDGs) will have a wider brief, incorporating economic and environmental issues. At the UN General Assembly last year, member states agreed the new goals would be based on the principles of human rights and the rule of law.

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