Millennium Development Goals: Mixed Results

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With five years to go before the deadline for achieving the Millennium Development Goals, progress has been too slow: Governments need to redouble their efforts.

In absolute terms, poverty has increased. It now affects 388 million people.

The African Economic Outlook (AEO) 2010 report, co-published by the African Development Bank (AfDB) and OECD on Monday, May 24, 2010 in Abidjan, at the AfDB’s Annual Meetings highlighted the progress made toward achieving the MDGs.

The document stressed that: “With five years left to the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) end date and with the rate of progress on most of the goals sluggish, it is unlikely that they will be attained”.

In this regard, it underlined that: "African Governments, supported by international donors, must step up efforts to accelerate progress”.

The AEO report, however, maintains that African policy makers must also face up to difficult choices. In the context of time constraints and limited financial and human resources, they must choose between aiming to achieve all the goals by the target date or to reach a few goals that they consider most critical for their long-term development.

Reviewing the MDGs, the report highlights the fight against extreme poverty and hunger. It points out that, although Africa has experienced several years of sustained growth which helped reduce the percentage of the population in poverty from 58% in 1990 to 50% in 2005, absolute poverty has increased. It now affects 388 million people, the document said.

"The continent’s rapid growth during 2000-08 came to an abrupt halt in 2009, as Africa became a victim of the worldwide financial crisis.  By early 2009, it became clear that from most African countries, the crisis was a serious setback.  With five years left to the MDGs end date, Africa was more than ever seriously off track to achieve the poverty reduction MDG".

Preventing a development crisis

The AEO also states: “To prevent a development crisis, the international community needs to continue to work in partnership with African countries to mitigate the effects of the crisis, which threatens the achievements in terms of higher growth and some gains in poverty reductions over the past decade”.

The document also states that: "Although the absolute number of undernourished people in the region has increased on average from 172.8 million in 1990-92 to 217.2 million in 2004-6, the proportion of the number of people below the dietary energy consumption level declined marginally, from 34% to 30%”.

"These figures exclude North Africa, where less than 5% of the population is undernourished. Moreover, west Africa reported a decrease in the absolute number of undernourished people during the period”.

The 2007 data showed that the continent maintained its progress towards meeting this target, although the number of people affected by hunger has actually increased due to rising population, the report continued.

Ghana has already achieved this target, due in large part to stable governance, sound macro-economic policies and increased investment in agriculture. North African countries are in a similar situation.

Nonetheless, efforts need to be scaled up to meet this target because of its interaction with the other MDGs, especially the health-related MDGs.  International cooperation remains essential in this regard.

"The interaction of hunger and poverty makes assessment of progress according to this target complicated.  In 2010, hunger persists in many African countries, notably in Niger, Burkina Faso, Madagascar, Eritrea and Chad.  The recent global food crisis and economic crisis have contributed to rendering the achievement of this target unrealizable for many African countries”, the AEO report concluded.

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