Information and stories on Millennium Development Goals

Poverty in Thailand
Thailand is being touted as a development success story. Sustained growth and poverty reduction are the reasons for the incredible progress. Poverty in Thailand was reduced from 21 percent in 2000 to 12.6 percent in 2012 and 7.5 percent in 2015. Between 1999-2005 the economy grew annually by five percent, which created jobs and improved education.

While Thailand has become a middle-income country and an active development partner, the country’s growth has slowed to only 3.5 percent between 2005-2015. Despite this, Thailand is making great progress towards meeting their Millennium Development Goals.

Thailand’s economic success is not shared with all citizens. Poverty in Thailand mainly affects those living in rural areas. There are 7.1 million people living in poverty and 80 percent of those live in rural areas. The inequality is not limited to those living in rural areas. Some areas and ethnic groups are affected more than others, particularly in the Northeast, North and Deep South.

Poverty and inequality create a challenge for a country with a faltering GDP. While the World Bank predicts that growth will increase 3.2 percent in 2017, it has grown by less than 2.5 percent annually between 2014-2016.

A 20-year strategic plan to end poverty in Thailand and help attain developed country status includes reforms to stabilize the economy and provide equal economic opportunities, environmental stability, and effective government bureaucracies. The country has already implemented large-scale public infrastructure projects, renewable energy tariffs, strengthened the renewable energy market, identified opportunities for energy efficiency improvement, diversified fuel sources and created a state enterprise policy committee. On a more economical level, the country has transferred supervisory oversight of specialized financial institutions to the Bank of Thailand, created a National Savings Fund and created a retirement safety net for workers.

Thailand may achieve its desired goals and see an end to poverty in the country if it can sustain growth and implement additional sound reforms.

Mary Barringer

Photo: Flickr

Fighting to Overcome Hunger in Malaysia
Malaysia, a country located in Southeast Asia, has one of many populations facing extreme rates of poverty. The issue of hunger in Malaysia has been prevalent throughout the past few decades. In 2011, 57 percent of children living in Southeast Asia were underweight.

Although the rates of hunger in Malaysia dropped from 29.6 percent to 17.6 percent in 2013, the U.N. described this drop as inadequate for meeting the target of the Millennium Developmental Goals. In other words, the country needs a much greater turnaround if the target goals toward reducing hunger are to be accomplished.

The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has done ample research into the prevalence of hunger and poverty in Malaysia and the burdens that follow. It subsequently found that children who are malnourished face an increased risk of exhibiting cognitive and developmental disabilities at some point in the future.

In addition, there seems to be a correlation between individuals suffering from hunger in Malaysia compared with those who are overweight. According to UNICEF, “A child whose growth was stunted in early childhood is at greater risk of becoming overweight later in life.” Likewise, an increased risk for being overweight correlates with “increased access to junk food and drinks, physical inactivity and sedentary lifestyles.” These growing issues have led to the implementation of different health and training programs by numerous healthcare groups in Malaysia. The programs are accessible to children (especially within the school system), teens and adults.

In 2005, a volunteer-based organization known as Stop Hunger Now set up offices in Kuala Lumpur and began implementing a meal packaging program, specifically targeting malnourished individuals in Malaysia. Stop Hunger Now has thousands of volunteers who package together vegetables, rice, soy and tons of vitamins.

With assistance from local, U.S. corporations and community groups, Stop Hunger Now has supplied more than two million meal packages for malnourished people throughout Malaysia.

Lael Pierce

Photo: Flickr

Progress Made on Poverty in Oman
Since 2000, Oman has made strides towards eradicating poverty levels and providing a more stable environment for its people. Oman has met eight of its Millennium Development Goals thus far and is setting its sights on more progress in the future to eradicate poverty in Oman.

Oman is a Middle Eastern country bordering the Arabian Sea and the Gulf of Oman and is east of Yemen, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. It is twice the size of the state of Georgia and just slightly smaller than Kansas.

According to the National Center for Statistics and Information’s Millennium Development Goals indicator, Oman has met eight of its Millennium Development Goals which include: reducing extreme poverty and hunger rates, decreasing child mortality rates, implementing universal primary education and fighting diseases like HIV/AIDS and Malaria.

Extreme poverty and hunger in Oman have been cut in half between 1990 and 2015. In addition, the child mortality rate has dropped by 29 percent since 1990. However, the number of underweight children under five is still too high, at 9.7 percent, although it is a significant decrease from 23 percent in 1990.

Oman has also achieved the goal of ensuring that boys and girls complete a full course of primary schooling. In 1990, 89.8 percent of students that completed the first grade also completed primary school – by 2014 that number grew to 99.1 percent. Because of that, the literacy rate in teens and young adults between the ages of 15 and 24 has grown to 98.9 percent.

Overall, the actions made by Oman, and the collaboration of other countries around the world, have produced optimistic results in regard to poverty in Oman. The success story of Oman and the many other nations who have met their current Millennium Development goals is proof that many countries are taking steps in the right direction.

Dustin Jayroe

Photo: Flickr

In the past decade, access to education has been on the rise in Azerbaijan. As of 2009, the literacy rate in Azerbaijan was 99.5 percent, an impressive number for the Caucasus region. Education in Azerbaijan is well on the way to meeting the Millennium Development Goal 2 of universal primary education in the next few years. However, there are clear, massive inequalities in primary education between refugees and non-refugees.

Azerbaijan has one of the largest displaced populations, as it is currently home to over one million refugees who are internally displaced people (IDP) hoping for asylum status. According to UNICEF, Azerbaijan has the highest IDP population per capita in the entire world; a majority of these people are Azeris, who have been displaced from their own homes due to the Nagorno-Karabakh war.

Refugee Children Require Additional Educational Resources

Azerbaijan is leading the Caucasus region in access to education for refugees. In 2003, Azerbaijan began allowing refugees to attend public school. However, since there is a large IDP population, inequities in refugee education are inevitably holding back universal education in Azerbaijan. Many refugee children do not have the same access to education as native children, affecting early, primary and secondary schooling.

A 2010 report indicates that about 20 percent of Chechen refugee children in Azerbaijan do not attend school, and of those who do attend, many cannot understand their instructors due to language barriers. This is common for many refugee populations in Azerbaijan. UNICEF notes that “most refugees have special linguistic needs since many do not speak the national language, straining teachers and school resources.”

It is common for displaced children to experience violence and hardship due to their refugee status, leading to many children requiring additional special psychosocial learning. Additionally, refugee children enter school later and tend to be less prepared for school, compared with the average Azerbaijani student.

Though Azerbaijan is working to ensure increased access to education for all children, many outside organizations have taken initiative to increase educational opportunities for refugees in Azerbaijan. For example, the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) found that oftentimes, refugee children do not go to school because their school materials are too expensive. To remedy this, the UNHCR created a textbook fund, giving more than 8,000 textbooks to about 2,000 refugee children.

In the future, there is a great deal of hope for the state of universal education in Azerbaijan.

Morgan Leahy

Photo: Flickr

In her first official statement as U.N. Deputy Secretary-General, Amina Mohammed called for a new approach to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). She gave her speech to the U.N. Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) operational activities segment, which met between February 28 and March 2, 2017.

Participants at this year’s ECOSOC meeting discussed increasing coordination, accountability and transparency in the U.N.’s approach to the SDGs. In her address, Mohammed stated that to achieve the SDGs would require all countries to “redefine traditional planning, delivery and monitoring.”

Mohammed has a track record of fighting for the environment. She has held positions as the former Minister of the Environment of Nigeria, the founder of the Center for Development Policy Solutions and a professor for the Master’s in Development Practice program at Columbia University’s Earth Institute. Mohammed’s past achievements show her commitment to the SDGs. In her address she said that, “achieving the SDGs is not an option, but an imperative for a safe and secure future of prosperity, opportunity and human rights for all.” The SDGs are an investment in preventing crises from forming out of global challenges like poverty, climate change, environment and hunger.

Mohammed believes that achieving the SDGs will require the U.N. to take more initiative. While the U.N. is actively engaged in efforts to achieve the SDGs, policy and framework has expanded immensely since the creation of the Millennium Development Goals in 2000. For example, the Addis Ababa Action Agenda laid out specific guidelines for implementing the SGDs in 2015, and the Inter-agency Task Force was created in 2016 to analyze progress. Only time will tell what developments will come in the future.

Josh Ward

Photo: Flickr

How Many People Live in Poverty
How many people live in poverty? The fight to end global poverty has been making strides over the past decade. In 2010, the world met its first Millennium Development Goal of cutting global levels of how many people live in poverty from 1990 in half, five years early. Though a step in the right direction, there are still billions of people living in extreme poverty conditions. There is plenty of work to be done if the world plans on meeting the most important goal: ending extreme poverty completely by 2030.

The World Bank defines being in poverty as anyone making under $1.90 per day. In 1990, the amount of the world’s population living beneath that threshold was 35.1 percent. However, thanks in large part to unifying efforts to decrease this number, 2013 finished with a record low — 10.7 percent of the population under that poverty line. That 25-point decrease in how many people live in poverty over just 20 years is unprecedented.

Nevertheless, it is important to remember that these percentages are people, and 10.7 percent of the global population, about 767 million people, were living on less than two dollars per day in 2013. For a frame of reference, the current population of the entire United States is just under 325 million.

The world was able to exceed the first Millennium Development Goal five years early, but the momentum has slowed in recent years, and certain regions of the world are having a slower time producing progressive results. Because of this, the continued consistent reduction of how many people live in poverty and the eradication of all extreme poverty by 2030 is an ambition that will not be an easy goal to reach. However, like the President of World Bank, Jim Yong Kim said, “This is the best story in the world today — these projections show us that we are the first generation in human history that can end extreme poverty.”

Dustin Jayroe

Photo: Flickr

Sustainable Solutions on How to End HungerSignificant success has been achieved in alleviating global hunger since the launch of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) in 2000. Of 129 participating countries, 72 met target MDG 1c of halving the proportion of people suffering from hunger. Prevalence of undernourishment in developing countries has dropped from 23.3 percent to 12.9 percent over the past 25 years, according to the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization. Despite such improvement, approximately 793 million people are still starving. How to end hunger remains a significant question.

The disparity exists in the magnitude of advancements between different regions. Countries with stable political and economic conditions and reliable social support met their international hunger targets. But nations in a state of protracted crisis failed due to lack of income opportunities for impoverished groups. Region-specific causes and solutions need to be identified to end hunger. Four underlying causes and resolutions on how to end hunger are listed below.

  1. Poverty Trap
    People stuck in an endless loop of poverty and deprived of nutritious food become weak and unable to work. Farmers without access to land, seeds, tools, fertilizers, clean water or education are incapable of effecting positive change. Such families benefit from financial assistance and voucher programs for food, health insurance and school meals complemented by procurement contracts with local farmers. Conditional transfer programs (CTP) provide backup to low-income families in the form of cash or benefits under the obligation that the family uses the aid to invest in the children’s wellbeing. The first CTP, the Oportunidades program, was initiated in Mexico in 1997. These programs are now prevalent in most developing regions of the world, especially Latin America.Food Assistance for Assets (FFA), established by the World Food Programme (WFP), the largest humanitarian organization in the world, provides food assistance to the disadvantaged in exchange for their help in building infrastructural assets that benefit the whole community.
  2. Lack of Agricultural Infrastructure
    Lack of cost-effective resources such as reliable transport, storage and water supply impedes rural farmers’ productivity and access to food. The least-developed, poor economies rely on agriculture for 27-30 percent of their Gross Domestic Product (GDP), and sustainable farming has a direct positive impact on acute poverty and the “how to end hunger” question. This correlation is more pronounced in an environment of income equality. China drastically lowered poverty from the 80’s to mid-90’s due to agricultural growth from an equal share in the farmland. A comparable impact on poverty reduction is less evident in Latin America and India in spite of higher yields due to unequal land allocation and mechanized farming. Agricultural investment policies for effective land management, use of water and access to resilient seed types aid in ending hunger. Easy access to markets is equally important for smallholder farmers to generate income. Producing food with no avenue for sale is futile. The WFP’s initiative, Purchase for Progress (P4P), provides opportunities for rural farmers to sell their produce in markets, collaborate and expand.
  3. Education
    Education is another key aspect to enhancing sustainable food security. Educating rural populations is critical for smallholder farmers and women to derive benefits from agricultural growth through collaborations in the value chain.It also facilitates recruitment of current uneducated populations in the non-agricultural workforce. This is especially important in economies not predominantly reliant on agriculture. Education gives communities the ability to secure an income and improve earning potential through independent entrepreneurship.Instruction and training resources on nutrition and family planning are crucial tools for preventing malnutrition. According to the World Hunger Education Service, enhanced education for women improves nutrition for the whole family.
  4. Gender Gap
    Gender equality is vital to answering the question of how to end hunger. Women represent approximately 43 percent of the labor force in developing countries. But predispositions regarding women’s roles hamper their contribution to reducing poverty and hunger.Though women’s farming capabilities match that of their male counterparts, reduced access to quality land, seeds, tools, fertilizers, animals and education results in lower yields. The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) estimates that equal distribution of resources for women would increase yields by 20-30 percent. This translates to an increased output of 2.5-4 percent and 100-150 million more people with access to food.In most societies, women spend 85-90 percent of their time on domestic activities, an added hindrance to their earnings. Rural labor markets also suffer from gender disparity. Women are mostly employed in seasonal, part-time and low-paying jobs. Household obligations, sociocultural norms and lack of education diminishes their potential.Policy interventions including education, elimination of discriminatory segregation, equal access to resources and financial services, sustainable technologies enabling female participation in labor markets and infrastructural improvements to lighten household burdens assuage gender inequality.

Groundbreaking progress has been made but it has been uneven and the end goal not met. About half of deaths in children under five are caused by malnutrition, resulting in three million lives lost each year. The question of how to end hunger is complex and urgent. The answer lies in integrated strategies targeting region-specific needs. The Sustainable Development Goals set forth by the U.N. in 2015 provide strategic solutions to achieving the goal of food security, improving nutrition and ending hunger. As the FAO Director General, Graziano da Silva said, “We must be the Zero Hunger generation.” Anything short of this is unacceptable.

Preeti Yadav

Photo: Flickr

Zero Hunge
On Dec. 6, 2016, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) released the first post-Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) report, 2016 Asia and the Pacific Regional Overview of Food Insecurity — Investing in a Zero Hunger Generation. According to the report, although the Asia-Pacific Region met the MDG target of halving the proportion of people suffering from hunger, “the overall rate of progress is less than desired, and there are several countries and sub-regions where the prevalence rates are still very high.”

Sustainable Development Goal (SDGs)

In September of 2015, world leaders adopted the Agenda for Sustainable Development, which features 17 new Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The second goal (SDG2) of the agenda reads, “End hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture.” The report warns that progress towards achieving zero hunger has slowed, and must increase in order to reach SDG2’s target by 2030. In addition, the report says fully eliminating the prevalence of undernourishment, as well as reducing other forms of malnutrition across the Asia-Pacific region will be a challenge.

5th Global Forum

The U.N. FAO report was featured at the 5th Global Forum of Leaders for Agricultural Science and Technology (GLAST-2016), a three-day event in December that took place in Hainan, China. The theme of the forum was “Eliminating poverty and hunger through Science and Technology,” and discussions focused on solutions to the challenges facing agricultural development. One of the attendees was FAO Assistant Director-General and Regional Representative for Asia and the Pacific, Kundhavi Kadiresan, who said, “Most countries in this region are spending too little on agricultural research…we will, collectively, need to put our money where our mouths are to ensure we can meet these twin challenges [SDG2].”

Achieving Zero Hunger

According to the report, although economic growth is part of achieving SDG2, it is not nearly enough. Agriculture and food sustainability face resource scarcity and a changing, often unpredictable, climate, and growth in the agricultural sector is much more important. Investing in ways to improve agricultural production in order to enhance food availability is essential. Therefore, these should be the focus of government programs and policies that are intended to increase food and nutrition security.

Kristin Westad

Photo: Flickr

Despite an aggregate economic growth, Vanuatu’s regions are developing unevenly, leaving some areas more vulnerable than others. To achieve its Millennium Development Goal of reducing poverty in Vanuatu from the current rate of 12.7 percent to two percent, both local leaders and international actors need to consider the country’s unique vulnerabilities and strengths.

According to the CIA World Factbook, 26 percent of the population lives in the urban centers of Port Vila (capital) and Luganville. Vanuatu’s population of just over 277,000 inhabits 65 of the 80 islands in the country’s archipelago.

This geography plays a key role in understanding poverty in Vanuatu. According to the U.N. Development Programme, geographic factors create a more statistically significant barrier to energy and basic goods than do vulnerabilities in population such as age, gender or income level.

Vanuatu’s geography is defined by dramatic tropical volcanic mountains that rise from shallow coastlines. It is along these edges that most of Vanuatu’s population lives, either in port towns or rural villages.

Even in a relatively small island nation, the plight of the urban poor and rural poor are not easily delineated. Indeed, different areas experience varied iterations of development. For example, from 2006 to 2010, rates of food poverty (not having sufficient access to basic food goods) declined from approximately five percent to three percent in Port Vila, but increased from approximately two percent to eight percent in Luganville over the same period. Similarly, while average poverty rates in Luganville increased from 2006 to 2010, overall rates of poverty in rural areas fell.

These discrepancies emerge largely because of geographic location, which determines principle economic activities such as fishing and tourism. Access to basic foodstuffs also depends on weather patterns and agricultural production, which are especially interdependent on small, shallow islands.

These coastal communities are threatened by rising sea levels and increasingly frequent tropical storms such as Cyclone Pam, which swept through the Pacific in 2015, destroying up to 96 percent of food crops on some of Vanuatu’s southernmost islands.
Although Vanuatu is susceptible to extreme weather, traditionally sound building practices offer light, but flexible, protection and help. These practices aid in minimizing fatalities in emergencies.

An increase in telecommunication infrastructure also proved to be life-saving. When Cyclone Pam hit, SMS text alerts notified island residents. In many cases, it was the only effective warning system that allowed citizens to prepare accordingly. This access to modern technology can help growing populations confront increasingly frequent extreme weather movements.

Despite these obstacles, the Asian Development Bank reports the overall poverty rate of Vanuatu as low relative to other small nations in the Pacific. Recently, increases in tourism, agricultural production and foreign aid and investment are reflected in Vanuatu’s positive economic growth.

USAID recognizes the delicate geographic circumstances of Pacific islands such as Vanuatu, as nearly 50 percent of the Pacific Islander population lives within a mile of a coastline. USAID is committed to alleviating poverty in Vanuatu by building infrastructure that will withstand pressures from both climate change and extreme weather.

By understanding the unique circumstances of island nations such as Vanuatu, the U.S. and other global economic powerhouses can allocate aid in ways that are both culturally and geographically appropriate, helping to lift these vulnerable populations out of poverty.

– Laurel Klafehn
Photo: Flickr

prioritizing Global Education
In a report recently released by UNESCO, only 64 of the 157 countries tied to the U.N.’s Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) met the 2015 deadline for complete accessibility to global education.

While the U.N.’s sustainable development goal on education (SDG4), launched last September, strives to achieve universal education for both primary and secondary levels by 2030, only 12 countries are expected to achieve its goal by 2030. The U.S. is not expected to meet the goal until 2040.

What is causing the delay?

According to the director of the global education monitoring report, Aaron Benavot, there are two primary reasons for the slow progress made in reaching targets set out by MDG and SDG4. Benavot cites continued political instability, conflict and economic as well as social inequalities as casual factors. In addition, the director also notes that aid is not being distributed equally or prioritized to those countries that may need it the most.

Mongolia has universal primary completion already, but received 15 times the amount of aid to education per child than Chad […], where only just a quarter of children are completing primary education,” Benavot explained to The Guardian.

Why is prioritizing global education important?

  1. If universal secondary education were to be achieved by 2030, there would be 20,000 fewer natural-disaster-related deaths over the next two decades.
  2. If all children had a primary education, as many as 700,000 cases of HIV could be prevented each year.
  3. Educating women would prevent up to 3.5 million child deaths between 2050 and 2060. According to UNICEF, educating a woman would also dramatically reduce the chance her child will die before the age of five.
  4. A country that has 10 percentage points more of its youths in schools reduces its risk of conflict from 14% to around 10%.
  5. According to UNESCO, if all students in low-income countries learned basic reading skills, 171 million people could be lifted out of poverty, resulting in a 12% decline in global poverty.

Although funds may support greater accessibility to global education for millions of children as well as prepare them to contribute to their country’s economies, education’s impacts cross multiple sectors — health, mortality rates and international conflict. Education is the disguised powerhouse towards successfully eradicating poverty. Meeting the U.N.’s SDGs by 2030 should be the number one priority.

Priscilla Son
Photo: Flickr