A United Nations report has warned that the negative economic climate could slow progress towards the Millennium Development Goals.
The financial crisis has dealt a blow to efforts to combat world poverty. A United Nations report has warned that the negative economic climate could slow progress towards the Millennium Development Goals (MGDs) and in some cases even reverse the progress that had been made in the last ten years. More worryingly, it says Sub-Saharan Africa would be hardest hit by the crisis.
The UN on Thursday released the Millennium Development Goals Report 2009, which tracks progress towards the MDGs. The goals, which aim to halve extreme poverty in all forms by 2015, were adopted by all UN member states in 2000.
The report showed that the proportion of employed people living on less than $1,25 a day (about R10) had returned to 64%. This is a drop of 6% since last year. The figure is now the same as it was ten years ago. In addition, the number of people suffering from hunger increased last year due to escalating food prices—29% of the population in Sub-Saharan Africa is undernourished.
Osten Chunu, MDG policy advisor at the UN development programme regional office in Johannesburg, said the economic crisis would have a particularly harsh impact in Africa, where a single wage-earner often supports an extended family network. ‘The loss of one job affects so many people, and the International Labour Organisation says we are going to lose 20-million jobs. That is a huge loss,” he said.
Chunu also warned that the crisis could affect the amount of official development assistance that wealthy countries would donate to the developing world. According to Chunu, 70% to 80% of the national budget of some least developed countries depends on foreign aid. ‘And we know that aid is going to be cut. We need to start thinking about how to push these [MGD] programmes forward. It’s critical that we create awareness right now to remove over-dependency on foreign capital inflows,” he said.
The MDG on which the least progress has been made over the years is maternal health. The UN says 536 000 women die during pregnancy, in childbirth or of labour-related complications, and 99% of these deaths occur in developing countries. With 900 deaths per 100 000 live births, Sub-Saharan Africa is lagging far behind the rest of the world in maternal health.
Dr Stella Anyangwe, acting resident coordinator of the UN in South Africa, said it was particularly concerning that over half of all maternal deaths happen in Africa and that less than half of all pregnant women received adequate prenatal care.
Anyangwe also that while the economic climate does present challenges to attainment of the MDGs, it should not be ‘an excuse on which to hang our inadequacies”.