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Mixed Progress On MDGs, Additional Advancement Still Possible, Report Says

Poverty rates in 10 African countries have been halved over the last two decades, while child mortality rates have gone up in six sub-Saharan African countries, according to a report (.pdf) from the Overseas Development Institute (ODI) and the U.N. Millennium Campaign, which emphasized that progress towards the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) is possible, the Associated Press/St. Petersburg Times reports (Straziuso, 6/22).  

According to an ODI press release, the report “focused on progress on [MDG] Goal 1, which seeks to eradicate extreme poverty and hunger; Goal 4, to reduce child mortality; and Goal 5, to improve maternal health” (6/22).

The report card “was released Tuesday to coincide with meetings of G8 and G20 countries in Canada beginning Friday,” according to the AP/St. Petersburg Times. “The countries that halved their poverty rates since 1990 include relatively populous countries such as Ethiopia and Egypt and post-conflict countries such as Angola, the report said. However, in Nigeria and Zimbabwe, the proportion of the population living in extreme poverty has risen,” the article reports.

The analysis, funded in part by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, indicated “that progress was mixed on the goal of halving the number of people who suffer from hunger. Just over half of countries have made progress in reducing undernourishment. Progress has varied greatly. In Ghana, hunger levels were cut 75 percent between 1990 and 2004. But in the Democratic Republic of Congo, hunger levels more than doubled to 76 percent during the same period,” according to the news service (6/22).  

“This study decisively establishes with hard evidence that much of the negative reporting on progress on the Millennium Development Goals is misleading,” Salil Shetty, director of the U.N. Millennium Campaign, said in the press release. “Instead of lamenting that Africa might miss the MDG targets, we should be celebrating the real changes that have happened in the lives of millions of poor people, not least because of the unified effort between governments and citizens, supported by donors,” Shetty said, adding that G8 countries must follow up on aid commitments. 

ODI Director Alison Evans said, “In a world where support for development is under increasing scrutiny, we hope that this work will contribute to a broader appreciation of how we assess progress to date” (6/22).

Advocates Speak Out Ahead Of G8, G20 Meetings

Ahead of the upcoming summits, health advocates outlined recommendations for G8 and G20 countries.

CARE Canada, Plan Canada, RESULTS Canada, Save the Children Canada, UNICEF Canada and World Vision Canada called for Canada to contribute new funding of at least $1.4 billion over five years for maternal and child health programs, CBC News reports. The groups want the G8 collectively to contribute $24 billion over five years for maternal and child health. They say funds should be used for health worker training and basic health service delivery among other things (6/22).

Meanwhile Stephen Lewis, head of AIDS Free World, “said the G8 Muskoka Accountability Report released this week admitted that the bloc will fall short by at least 7 billion dollars of the total of 25 billion dollars this year, or about 30 percent,” Deutsche Presse-Agentur/M&C reports (6/22). “There’s been much talk about this being the ‘accountability summit,’ yet many G8 countries are cynically using the financial crisis to flat-line or cut AIDS funding, despite the earlier commitments to universal access at Gleneagles in 2005,” Lewis, a former U.N. special envoy on HIV/AIDS in Africa, said, the Toronto Sun writes (Connor, 6/22).  

Also ahead of the summits, “Doctors Without Borders, also known as MSF, is calling for ‘fundamental changes’ in addressing malnutrition, as well as ‘new sustainable funding resources,'” VOA News reports. The article features quotes from Marilyn McHarg, general director of MSF Canada. “There’s a real risk that the maternal-child health agenda will not move forward. We will not be able to improve the situation worldwide if we are not looking (at) and addressing malnutrition,” McHarg said (DeCapua, 6/22).

In related news, Inter Press Service examines whether Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s invitation to African countries to participate in the G8 reflects the group’s “concern about the litany of unmet promises dating from its 2005 Gleneagles meeting – or whether it merely amounts to another bout of window-dressing.” The article includes perspectives from Francis Ikome, director of the African and southern African programme at the Institute for Global Dialogue, Trudi Hartzenberg, executive director of the Trade Law Centre for Southern Africa and Mzukisi Qobo, programme head for emerging powers and global leadership challenges at the South African Institute for International Affairs (Nieuwoudt, 6/23).