Reasons for the variable progress towards achieving the Millennium Development Goal targets.

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By Florence Goodrham

The MDGs established in 2000 by international agreement are probably the most significant major attempt to defeat poverty ever undertaken.  The UN set out eight development goals to reduce global poverty substantially by 2015.  They are viewed as basic human rights – the rights of every person on earth to health, education, shelter and security.  Reasons for variable progress towards achieving the Millennium Development Goal targets can be determined through examining different regions. These include Sub-Saharan Africa, East Asia, South Asia and Latin America and the Caribbean.

Firstly, Sub-Saharan Africa has made little progress towards achieving the Millennium Development Goal targets. Primarily, this could be due to persistent poverty. In Sub-Saharan Africa, 48.5% of the population is living on less than $1.25 per day, and 69.9% on less than $2.00 per day. With a little over 910 million people living in the region, this places around 637 million Africans below the poverty line. This poverty is fuelled by limited progress in economic development due to a lack of trade and participation in globalisation. There is no headquarters of a TNC in Sub-Saharan Africa. Furthermore, particular problems such as a lack of adequate nutrition have been exacerbated by war, conflict, drought, desertification and population growth.  No less than 28 Sub-Saharan African states have been at war since 1980, as pointed out by international development organization, ID21. Lastly, low levels of medical infrastructure and personnel has prevented Sub-Saharan Africa from being able to begin achieving the Millennium Development Goal targets such as reducing child mortality and improving maternal health.

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Secondly, it can be observed that East Asia has been able to progress to some targets effectively but has fallen short of reaching others. The continued growth of China’s economy has supported development throughout eastern Asia. Thus, there have been clear benefits from growing wealth and jobs in China as industrialisation and urbanisation helps to explain falling poverty. Investment in doctors and hospitals, plus an increase in urban births helps to explain a reduction in maternal mortality. However, China’s ageing population has led to a reduction in the agricultural workforce, hence the risk of increased hunger. Despite the risk, as a result of progress in China, the extreme poverty rate in Eastern Asia has dropped from 61 per cent in 1990 to only 4 per cent in 2015. The Caucasus and Central Asia, Eastern Asia, Latin America and South-Eastern Asia have reached the hunger target, due mainly to rapid economic growth in the past two decades. China alone accounts for almost two thirds of the total reduction in the number of undernourished people in the developing regions since 1990.

In contrast to this, in South Asia, India’s population is continuing to grow rapidly, and due to the relative lack of urbanisation in India, villages in rural areas receive minimal assistance in feeding more people, hence a failure to meet the target eradicating extreme hunger and poverty, exemplified through the 2007 – 2010 Indian food crisis. Nevertheless, an increased amount of aid and investment in India may explain good education progress. Furthermore, in the early 2000s, low oil prices massively boosted the development of countries with a large reliance on imported oil, such as India. However, Countries such as Pakistan and Afghanistan have suffered from war and conflict, which may limit or reverse progress.  South Asia has made the most progress in reducing its infant mortality rate (IMR); this could be due to both increased government spending, as the previously high IMR was seen as a major problem, restricting economic growth and social development, and new technologies, which can easily be distributed to the large population. There has been surprisingly poor progress expect for child mortality, it could be suggested that this is due to a large urban slum poverty and hunger. There is further possibly a lack of political will to address the remainder of the problem.

Overall, it can be concluded that the variable progress towards achieving the Millennium Development Goal targets in different areas of the world can be put down to levels of development, war and conflict, industrialisation and economic growth. The region which has reached the most targets and has achieved the most progress has been East Asia. This region has undergone rapid economic development and industrialisation as well as little conflict. The region which has made the least progress has been Sub-Saharan Africa due to a lack of trade, limited participation in globalisation as well as suffering from large amounts of conflict and physical difficulties.


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