ALLENTOWN, Pennsylvania – UNICEF’s Executive Director, Anthony Lake, described the organization’s final assessment of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) as a “wake-up call” for the global community. The report, “Progress for Children: Beyond Averages,” warned the world that 68 million more children under five will die from mostly preventable causes and 119 million will be chronically malnourished by 2030 unless the global community caters to the most vulnerable populations in the next fifteen years.
UNICEF also stated that, despite achievements in reducing child and mother mortality, the MDGs—established in 2000—have “failed millions of disadvantaged children” and increased inequity levels in some countries.
UNICEF attributed the shortcomings of the MDGs to the lack of an adequate system to measure progress. National averages were the only form of data collection considered throughout the implementation of the goals; consequently, the execution of the MDGs focused only on the populations who were easiest to reach instead of those in need of the most attention and services. Lake emphasized that the most efficient way to achieve tangible results in the fight against poverty is to focus on those who global leaders once considered the hardest to reach.
“They are where the needs are greatest and our modeling over the years has shown that it’s the most cost-effective way to achieve results, because the results you achieve in the most disadvantaged areas almost always outweigh the additional costs of reaching those areas,” he said.
Targeting the poorest children is the best way to reduce the cycle of intergenerational poverty and improve the quality of life for entire communities, said Lake. He emphasized the “huge stakes” in creating a strategic plan that matches the ambition of the MDGs.
Unfortunately, health experts across the globe fear that the seventeen Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) that the U.N. will adopt in September lack the precision and focus of the MDGs. Charles Murray, director of the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington, fears that the SDGs, especially the third goal—“Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages”—is vague and challenging with current global health spending prospects.
Overall, health spending has increased by $29 million since 1990, but stagnation in aid spending in recent years has led to increased competition among health imperatives. Maternal mortality and universal reproductive healthcare remain far from the MDG targets, yet infectious diseases like Ebola in West Africa require attention, despite the progress in reducing malaria, tuberculosis and HIV/AIDs rates.
“There are so many goals now, it may be hard to maintain focus,” said Murray.
Additionally, experts fear that the SDGs do not operate under a comprehensive index of multidimensional poverty, which takes into account disadvantages of the poor, like lack of education, poor health and low living standards rather than only income. Sabine Alkire, director of the Oxford Poverty and Human Development Initiative, stated that experts and advocates must use both monetary poverty measures and the Multidimensional Poverty Index to capture the true reality of global poverty that UNICEF seeks to address.
“As the UN prepares to adopt 17 Sustainable Development Goals this September, which will determine the development agenda for the next 15 years, our findings serve as a powerful reminder of the extent of the poverty reduction challenge ahead and the need for an energetic and coordinated response.”
– Paulina Menichiello
Sources: Phys.org, Reuters,