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Where Are We Now? The Millennium Development Goals — Part Three
“Human beings are at the centre of concern for sustainable development. They are entitled to a healthy and productive life in harmony with nature.” Rio Declaration, 1992
In 2000, the United Nations (UN) undertook to change the world radically by reducing the symptoms and laying the foundation for a sustainable future. This Millennium Declaration led to the formation of eight goals collectively known as the Millennium Development Goals (MDG).
The fifth and sixth MDGs consider the effects of poverty on the health and welfare of the poorest populations. With an achievement deadline of December 31, 2015, UN member states have less than two years remaining. Has the UN reached its goals? And, what work still remains?
Improving Maternal Health
Two targets were set toward achievement of this goal: the reduction, by three quarters, of the maternal mortality ratio between 1990 and 2015, and universal access to reproductive health care.
Since 1990, the maternal mortality rates have been roughly halved. Working with figures from 2010, there has been a decline of 47 percent. This figure, which translates to 287,000 maternal deaths, may represent a global decline, although not all regions are progressing equally. Throughout developing regions, the maternal mortality rate is still 15 times higher than in developed countries.
Many women are receiving some level of antenatal care; globally, the proportion rose from 63 percent in 1990 to 81 percent in 2011. Still, 47 million babies were delivered in 2011 without the assistance of skilled caregivers. In addition, 140 million married women claim they would like to delay family planning but have no ability to control pregnancy.
Education plays a crucial factor as the risk of maternal mortality is higher for women with primary levels of education and about 2.7 times higher for women without any education. Additional focus needs to be directed toward achieving universal education for all women, as per the second MDG.
Combating HIV/AIDS, Malaria, and Other Diseases
The UN member states aimed to halt the spread of HIV/AIDS and to begin to reverse its spread by 2015. The same target has been identified for malaria and other significant diseases, such as tuberculosis. Additionally, states also undertook to provide universal access for HIV/AIDS treatment by 2010.
According to the UN, new infections of HIV/AIDS have been halted, with new infection rates declining. However, this does not mean that infection has been eradicated entirely. Worldwide, 2.3 million persons are infected annually, with 1.6 million of these cases occurring in Sub-Saharan Africa.
Simultaneously, there are now more people living with HIV/AIDS than at any other time in history. This is largely due to additional access to treatment. In 2012, 9.7 million people were receiving anti-retroviral treatment, with substantial increases over the past decade. Although more people have access to treatment, only 11 countries reported universal access in 2011.
For other life-threatening diseases, the UN reports a 25 percent decline in malaria mortality. Additionally, treatment for tuberculosis saved around 20 million people between 1995 and 2011. However, this does not impact the rate of infection, simply the amount of survivors.
Education is central to the eradication of HIV/AIDS and other major diseases. In many areas, the mechanics of HIV transmission along with condom use remain low, especially in young people. Without significant education initiatives, new infections will continue, even while rates may continue to decline.
What Needs To Be Done
MDGs 5 and 6 have seen mixed progress. Although considerable successes have been reported worldwide, certain areas still lag behind.
The full achievement of both goals relies on increased education, especially for women. Reductions in infection and mortality rates are also influenced by the resources states are able to provide. This requires partnerships between states and private enterprises, such as pharmaceutical companies; however, many developing countries are unable to shoulder the financial costs of universal medical treatment. All eight of the Millennium Development Goals are closely related in that they have the ability to affect the success of the others. Success for goals 5 and 6, therefore, is dependent on the success of the eighth MDG, which is the ability of the international community to provide aid relief.