Wednesday, 22 September 2010

A Man-on-the-Street View on the Progress of the MDGs Part II

Yesterday, I reviewed the first three goals of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) from a lay man's perspective. Here's my analysis of the rest of the goals:

4. Reduce child mortality
From what I've read in the news and some reports, global under-five mortality has reduced significantly over the past 10 years. Child health campaigners herald a dramatic dip in deaths caused by measles for example. I agree that this achievement must be applauded, but a close look around one's environment reveal some disparities. Reduction in child mortality appears to be the preserve of a few countries. There are also obvious demographic gaps in the rate of progress- child mortality is improving in urban centres while the same rate of progress is not happening in rural areas. Further, even in urban communities, there are great disparities between the wealthy and the not-so-wealthy.

5. Improve maternal health
More women are having access to antenatal and postnatal clinics; this is bringing maternal mortality down and boosting the overall well being of pregnant women and lactating mothers. What is questionable however is whether these women have the quality care that they deserve. I say this because the numbers of doctors, nurses and public health workers lag behind that of an escalating global population. There is very little emphasis on the quality of health of new mothers compared with the urgency attached to keeping them alive. Another problem is the increasing rate of unsafe abortions and poor family planning practices, a situation the medical system is failing to resolve due to obvious differences with local cultures of many developing nations. This oft-ignored point must be addressed by health policy thinkers when they're formulating strategies to improve maternal health.

6. Combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases
The global fight against infectious diseases has achieved mixed results. For example, parts of sub-Saharan Africa is experiencing a decline in HIV/AIDs infection whilst Eastern Europe is reported to be experiencing a resurgence. Anti-retroviral drugs are also out of the reach of poor people in many countries. Progress in rolling back malaria worldwide has also been reported to improve, but the long queues at rural health centres indicate that more needs to be done. Many children still present at clinics with the most complicated forms of cerebral malaria, resulting in death. The fight against malaria must now take an innovative twist. There must also be a careful watch of the global pandemic situation as mutating forms of old bugs re-emerge to wreck havoc on the human species. I don't get the feeling that we're being cautious enough.

7. Ensure environmental sustainability
There's no gainsaying that the survival of future human generations on the planet depends on how sustainably we exploit the environment's resources. Climate science remains controversial, and even when certain facts are proven, global appear to lack the political will to take decisions for the overall good of the planet. The inconclusive climate change talks, COP 15, held in Denmark recently is a case in point. Back home in Ghana, there's a lot of work to be done on the environment. Our cities remain littered with rubbish from polythene bags, while our forests are getting depleted by the day. While we have not mastered dealing with the environmental requirements of our mining industry, our nascent oil and gas industry presents a new challenge.

8. Develop a global partnership for development
There seems to be lot of interest worldwide in the affairs of developing countries now more than ever. In 2005, in Gleneagles, Scotland, leaders of the G-8 countries came out with Multilateral Debt Relief Initiative (MDRI) to implement the call for canceling debt owed by poor nations. There have been other aid schemes all aimed at taking advantage of the international infrastructure to bring development to developing countries. Does the man on the street feel the impact of all the donor money coming to Africa? No! It has been argued that unfavourable conditionalities, corruption and mismanagement erode aid money as quickly as it comes. In spite of incessant calls for more trade globally, the markets of the developed world remain difficult to penetrate, due to extremely demanding regulations. The rules of global engagement are heavily tipped in the favour of the big guns such that smaller nations feel voiceless and have no sense of real power. If we are to guide international relations in a way so as to engender development, poor countries too must be given a voice in matters of global community!

To sum it all up, the statistics may point to some success in the attainment of the UN's MDGs. While this is noteworthy, what should concern world leaders is how these statistics reflect in the lives of everyday people. As it stands, it looks like more has to be done than is currently thought
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