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.

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

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 5 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 Hunger
Significant 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

Health in AfricaOn August 26, the World Bank and the Global Fund to Fight AIDs, TB and Malaria (Global Fund) committed to investing $24 billion to accelerate universal health coverage in Africa. The funding aims to achieve universal health coverage in Africa (UHC) by 2030 as part of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

The announcement of funding was made at the sixth annual Tokyo International Conference for African Development (TICAD-VI). The investment will fund UHC in Africa: A Framework for Action, a plan launched by the World Bank, World Health Organization (WHO), the government of Japan, Japan International Cooperation Agency, Global Fund and the African Development Bank.

The framework targets specific areas that will greatly contribute to the achievement of UHC in Africa including financing, service delivery, targeting vulnerable populations, mobilizing critical sectors and political leadership.

Over the next five years, the World Bank plans to contribute $15 billion under the Global Financing Facility, Power of Nutrition, early childhood development, pandemic preparedness, targeting the poor, crisis preparedness and response and leveraging the private sector. The Global Fund has committed an additional $9 billion in funding between 2017 and 2019 to treat and prevent HIV, malaria and TB.

Emphasizing the importance of good health for economic productivity, the President of the World Bank Group, Jim Yong Kim, stated, “African countries can become more competitive in the global economy by making several strategic investments, including investing more in their people, their most prized resource.”

Today, millions of impoverished people cannot afford proper health care and are further entrenched in poverty as a result. The provision of universal health care in Africa would create boundless opportunities for individuals to access health care and work towards prosperity.

Not only does ill-health have devastating effects on an individual basis, but it also drastically affects the economy. Poor health impedes impoverished populations from working and prevents children from attending school. Well-designed universal health care can help alleviate the burdens of poor health, including creating employment opportunities in the healthcare industry.

In 2012, the U.N. called on the international community to substantially increase its funding for health care in developing nations. Marking December 12 as ‘Universal Health Coverage Day’ and turning it into an international movement, the global community increasingly emphasizes the positive outcomes of UHC and the importance of new, innovative ways to reach the most impoverished populations.

Recognizing the importance of achieving UHC, African Heads of State, in conjunction with the World Bank and Global Fund, have vowed a commitment to the push for UHC across the continent. Through international funding, a strategic framework and both regional and global support, UHC in Africa could be an obtainable MDG by 2030.

Anna O’Toole

Photo: Flickr

Malaysia_Poverty
The Southeast Asian nation of Malaysia is not a desperately poor country. Poverty in Malaysia is fairly low — the percentage of citizens at or below the national poverty line was 0.6 percent in 2014. Life expectancy and the infant mortality rate are about the same as in the U.S. and the GDP is growing.

Reducing poverty in Malaysia has come a long way since 1990 when the United Nations introduced the Millennium Development Goals. The first goal for the U.N. — to halve the number of people living on less than $1.25 a day by 2015 — was reached in Malaysia.

However, Malaysia has significant poverty and income inequality lurking just below the surface. While extreme poverty in Malaysia (income of less than $1.25 per day) is down to less than one percent, more than 25 percent of the population lives on less than $5 per day. Furthermore, about 60 percent of Malaysian families live on less than $1600 a month according to Al Jazeera.

About 20 million of the 30 million people in Malaysia live on the peninsula and approximately 72 percent of the population is urban.

The area in the need of the most support is the rural sector of Sabah on the island of Borneo. Borneo is a large island shared by Malaysia, Brunei and Indonesia so migration around the island is common.

The country is now home to about 2 million immigrants due to migration and recent political turmoil in neighboring Thailand. At this time there is no process for asylum seekers in Malaysia.

Both legal and illegal immigrants are known to be treated harshly and do not receive government support. It is imperative for the Malaysian government to address the needs of migrants as they make up over 10 percent of the population.

Malaysia also has relatively high levels of income inequality. The GINI index measures how much income levels deviate from totally equal distribution. Malaysia places higher than most countries, including all of its neighboring countries and the United States, with a GINI index of 46.2.

Malaysia stands out among its surroundings despite these problems. Nations like Laos, Myanmar and the Philippines all hover around a 25 percent poverty rate and an infant mortality rate that is between three and seven times higher than Malaysia.

Malaysia is also the only country among them with a functional and robust social welfare system. It is clear that further steps must be taken but remarkable progress has been made to reduce poverty in Malaysia in the past few decades.

John English

Photo: Flickr

Millennium_Development
The United Nations (U.N.) gathered in New York late last November to celebrate positive progress on the 2015 Millennium Development Goals made to curb one of the world’s deadliest diseases: malaria. Global leaders, diplomats, and health experts were also present to witness the good news.

“Today, we celebrate major advances in our fight against malaria,” U.N. Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon said in a message.

In 2000, a set of eight universally-agreed goals to rid the world of extreme poverty and disease by 2015 was developed by the UN Millennium Development Goals (MDG). The program saw much success, particularly regarding malaria.

“The world’s success in rolling back malaria shows just what can be achieved with the right kind of determination and partnerships,” said Mogens Lykketoft, the President of the UN General Assembly. “It provides bold inspiration to all nations that seek to create a healthy environment for their children and adults. We can and we must eliminate malaria by 2030.”

In order to achieve the 2030 target, the UN says that they will need full cooperation from the Roll Back Malaria Partnership and the World Health Organization (WHO). “In it, we have the path forward,” said Lykketoft. “I urge all members states to fully support implementation of this strategic plan.”

The UN announced that it surpassed MDG goals to “bring reversing malaria incidence by 2015.” Their progress is responsible for 6.2 million averted malaria deaths, 97 percent of which are young children.

Over 100 countries are declared “free” of malaria. Another 55 are on track to reduce new malaria cases by at least 75 percent by the end of the year. African countries are even seeing fewer malaria cases, a historical statistic for a continent that has struggled against the disease.

Despite the progress made, WHO estimates that approximately 214 million people were infected with malaria in 2015. Of that staggering number, 472,000 people lost their lives, a large percentage of which were children under the age of five.

Advancements in technology, as well as new measures, have helped reduce malaria deaths up to 20 percent in African children since 2000. About 95,000 newborn deaths related to malaria pregnancy have also been averted between 2009 and 2012.

Although health ministers will move away from the eight Millennium Development Goals and transition to a new set of 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) next year, the Roll Back Malaria Partnership is “urging continued commitment to achieve malaria elimination by 2030” while also helping to advance development across government sectors.

“Under MDGs, we have seen what can be achieved when we join our efforts and come together in a coordinated fashion,” said Herv Verhoosel, Representative from the Roll Back Malaria Partnership Secretariat in New York.

“As we set our sights on elimination, we stand to avert nearly 3 billion cases of infection and generate some $4 trillion in additional economic output over the next 15 years,” he said. “But we must ensure political commitment and predictable financial resources necessary to carry us over the finish line.”

Alyson Atondo

Sources: San Antonio Post, UN 1, UN 2
Photo: Flickr