…Despite significant reductions in extreme poverty, the world will find it difficult to eradicate hunger, however, which is another target of MDG 1. The persistence of hunger is forcing policymakers to address problems such as access to food and high food prices. The Food and Agriculture Organisation has been asked to undertake a comprehensive review to see what policies could lead to a reduction in the proportion of people going hungry, which has plateaued at 16%.
Sub-Saharan Africa chalked up the best record for improvement in primary school enrolment, but the world is far from achieving universal primary education, MDG 2. Burundi, Madagascar, Rwanda, Samoa, São Tomé and Principe, Togo and Tanzania are among the countries that have achieved, or are nearing the goal of universal primary education. The abolition of school fees has contributed to progress in many of these countries, the UN said.
To achieve universal primary education, children must complete a full cycle of primary schooling. Currently, 87 out of 100 children in poor countries complete primary education.
On gender equality and the empowerment of women, the report said girls are gaining ground in education, though unequal access persists in many regions. Some 96 girls were enrolled in primary and secondary schools for every 100 boys in 2009, a significant improvement since 1999, when the ratios were 91 and 88, respectively. However, only three regions – the Caucasus and central Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean, and south-east Asia – have achieved gender parity in primary education. Exceptionally, in eastern Asia, girls slightly outnumber boys in primary school.
Aid, which comes under MDG 8, reached $128.7bn last year, a record high, but this was still $19bn short of the commitments made at the Gleneagles summit in 2005. Africa is shortchanged as the UN says preliminary estimates show it will receive only $11bn out of the $25bn increase promised at Gleneagles “due mainly to the underperformance of some European donors”.
Although gains have been made across the board, including a reduction in child mortality, a decline in new HIV infections and improved access to drinking water, the UN urged countries to target those hardest to reach – the poorest of the poor and those disadvantaged because of their sex, age, ethnicity or a disability. It said the gap between urban and rural areas remains daunting.
“We have success stories to point to,” the UN secretary-general, Ban Ki-moon, said in Geneva. “But achieving all the MDGs will require extra effort. Even where we have seen rapid growth, as in east Asia and other parts of the developing world, progress is not universal, nor are the benefits evenly shared. Stubbornly high unemployment persists in rich and poor countries alike. And in many cases, the wealth gap is widening – between the prosperous and the marginalised, between urban and rural. Solid gains in school enrolment and gender parity hardly signal mission accomplished.”