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Updates on SDG Goal 1 in AfghanistanThough Afghanistan is a relatively poor country, it is on the road to betterment. The U.N.’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) adopted by world leaders in 2015, are helping to create this reality and below are some updates on SDG Goal 1 in Afghanistan.

What are the SDGs?

The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are an agenda for global change, put together by the leaders of 193 nations and slated to span 15 years, from 2015 to 2030. A broad look at the SDGs can be broken down into three primary goals:
1. End Extreme Poverty
2. Fight Inequality and Injustice
3. Protect Our Planet

What the SDGs Mean For Afghanistan

The Millennium Development Goals — a similar set of precursor goals, intended for the years 2000 to 2015 — set the previous stage for success within Afghanistan. Despite the country’s continuous challenge in creating better lives for its citizens, Afghanistan made much progress during these years. For example, the first 15 years of the millennia saw a change in the mortality rate of Afghan children; in 2001, 25% of Afghans would die before age five, while today that number is down to 10%. Although this statistic is still alarming when compared to those of the developed world, it constitutes a significant improvement. Fast-forwarding to 2015, the compiling of the SDGs took place at the United Nations General Assembly. There, Chief Executive Abdullah Adulla — GoIRA, represented Afghanistan and committed to pursuing the SDGs within his nation.

Since October 2015, upon the approval of the Afghan Minister’s cabinet, the Ministry of Economy has taken the responsibility of keeping track of Afghanistan’s progress and reports regarding the SDGs. The cabinet is currently working on nationalizing the agenda and extending consultations to those with an international stake in Afghanistan reaching its SDG targets.

Progress So Far

Specific updates on SDG Goal 1 in Afghanistan or updates in ending extreme poverty mostly concern planning, rather than actual action. Extreme poverty describes those living on less than $1.25 per day. While 42% of Afghans are below the poverty line (meaning they live on less than $1.90 per day), it is unclear what portion of this statistic is made up of those suffering in “extreme” poverty. Regardless, a great deal of preparation has been made in efforts to achieve SDG Goal 1 in Afghanistan; e.g., 111 national targets and 178 indicators are set for the country.

Recommendations and reports concerning the SDGs are on the minds of Afghan leaders. Aligning Afghanistan’s National Priority Programs with the United Nations SDGs is complete and communications and advocacy strategies are drawn up and approved by the SDGs Executive Committee. In addition, the Targets Prioritization Guideline has been finalized and shared with the relevant authorities.

A Final Outlook: Positive Trends

On a more humanitarian level, the Sustainable Development Report shows updates on SDG Goal 1 in Afghanistan as somewhat bleak. “Major challenges remain” still characterizes most of the assessment of the nation’s progress. However, this does not mean that a great deal of improvement has not already taken place. In terms of hunger issues, the prevalence of starving children in Afghanistan has dropped, as has the prevalence of obesity. The general health and wellness trajectory also seems promising — with maternal mortality rates and new HIV rates in particular, dropping significantly.

Overall, while updates on SDG Goal 1 in Afghanistan may on the surface be merely organizationally based — the nation is making a great deal of important progress towards the end goal. By 2030, the country’s outlook might well be much more promising.

Ava Roberts
Photo: Flickr

Informal Schools in African Slums
The United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat) estimates that, as of 2010, more than 200 million people in Africa reside in slums. This means more than 200 million people are living their lives in inhumane conditions and circumstances. The children living in these slums have a compromised opportunity at education. According to UNICEF, the youth residing in slums are some of the most disadvantaged and vulnerable youth in the world. Due to the burgeoning need for educational institutions in Africa, informal schools in African slums are gaining popularity.

What are Informal Schools?

Informal schools are unregistered educational institutions that are not recognized by the government. Traditional schooling comes in the form of either private or public schools, and informal schools are a sort of middle ground. They typically operate in impoverished areas and are mostly geared around offering the same education as a primary school. These institutions are funded by private parties and non-profit organizations.

Increasing Need

The main reason that the number of informal schools in African slums has been on the rise has to do with a surge of enrollment in public schools. This is, in part, due to the initiative of the U.N. Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), which pushed toward target goals that would reduce poverty, such as improved access to education. This enrollment surge is a positive factor in Africa’s education sector, but comes with a downside: there are not enough public schools to meet the rising need of educating African children, and the usual alternative, private schools, are not financially accessible to most African families. Overcrowding in African schools has been an increasing problem; the pupil to instructor ratio in African primary schools is 42:1.

In response to the need for more educational institutes, informal schools have been sprouting up all over Africa, especially in slums. Characterized by the same steel and dirt architecture in the surrounding slums, these schools offer an alternative option for education. There is a lack of government schools in slums, so private sectors and organizations provide funds for the informal schools.

The Benefits of Informal Schooling

Informal schools in African slums not only facilitate access to education but also offer a safe space for the youth. Many of these schools, such as the Destiny Junior Education Center, offer meals and restrooms, which are not commodities in slum-living. Informal schools keep African children off the streets and in the classrooms, which potentially helps them stay away from the vices that are rampant in slum environments like drugs and alcohol.

The Future of Informal Schools

The next step regarding informal schools is to put policies in place to protect them. There are members in the education committee of the National Assembly that are working toward informal schools being recognized by the government so as to strengthen the quality of education in them.

Overall, informal schools in African slums are an attempt to meet the increasing need for education in slums. By offering an alternative to the congested public schools, these informal education centers provide hope for African youth.

– Paula Bouza
Photo: Flickr

UN Millenium Development MDGsThe United Nations Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) were adopted in September 2000. World leaders and members of the United Nations (UN) gathered at the Millennium Summit to set goals for eradicating world poverty focusing on eight specific aspects of poverty and how it affects people globally.

The campaign concluded in 2015 and at that time data was released to show the progress achieved. The eight UN MDGs are listed below, along with what was achieved in each category, per the results of the 2015 report:

    • Goal 1: Eradicate Extreme Hunger and Poverty. The target of this goal was to halve, between 1990 and 2015, both the number of people whose income falls below $1 per day and the number of people suffering from hunger. These goals were largely achieved. The number of people living in extreme poverty was reduced by more than half. The proportion of undernourished people in developing countries fell by nearly half.
    • Goal 2: Achieve Universal Primary Education. This goal began with the ambitious target of assuring that both boys and girls everywhere would have access to a full primary education by 2015. Significant strides have been made in this area. The number of out of school children of primary age, globally, dropped from 100 million to 57 million over the course of the MDG campaign.
    • Goal 3: Promote Gender Equality and Empower Women. The goal, specifically, was to achieve gender parity in both primary and secondary education no later than 2015. This was achieved in roughly two-thirds of developing countries.
    • Goal 4: Reduce Child Mortality. The goal was specifically to reduce the mortality rate of children under 5 by two-thirds between 1990 and 2015. The rate was not reduced by two-thirds by 2015 but it was more than halved. The 12.7 million deaths in 1990 were reduced to 6 million by 2015.

  • Goal 5: Improve Maternal Health. The target of this goal was to reduce maternal mortality by three-quarters between 1990 and 2015. The result was that maternal mortality declined by 45 percent, largely after the year 2000.
  • Goal 6: Combat HIV/AIDS, Malaria and other diseases. The primary target named for this goal was to have halted the spread of HIV/AIDS by 2015, and to have begun its reversal. Cases of new HIV infections fell by 40 percent between 2000 and 2013, and there was an immense increase in the number of people who had access to the drugs that combat HIV. Additionally, the mortality rate due to malaria dropped by 58 percent, and 900 million insecticide-treated mosquito nets were distributed in affected areas.
  • Goal 7: Ensure Environmental Stability. This goal was to “Integrate the principles of sustainable development into country policies and programs and reverse the loss of environmental resources.” Results included 1.9 billion people gaining access to piped drinking water between 1990 and 2015 and 90 percent of ozone-depleting materials being eliminated in countries included in the campaign.
  • Goal 8: Develop a Global Partnership for Development. Financial assistance by developed countries increased from $81 billion in 2000 to $135 billion in 2014. This is a 66 percent increase.

In many cases, the UN MDGs were achieved. Where they were not, great strides were still made towards achieving the goals. Some have criticized the campaign for falling short of its stated goals. But the data shows significant progress made for each one.

Katherine Hamblen

Photo: Flickr

MDG Failures MDGs
As 2015 comes to a close and the world takes a look at the progress that has been made, it is clear that while much has been accomplished — with more than a billion people having been lifted out of poverty — many of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) were not complete successes, and some failed outright. Discussed below are the MDG failures and their implications.

Shortcomings: Assessing the MDG Failures

One of the major MDG failures is the fact that the success of the goals was not experienced equally across the globe; this in itself is a major defeat. Consider a few of these statistics from different countries concerning the same MDGs.

Extreme Poverty 50 Percent Reduction Rate:

  1. Southeastern Asia exceeded the goal for extreme poverty reduction by 16 percent
  2. Southern Asia exceeded the goal by 12.5 percent
  3. Northern Africa scraped by at about 1.2 percent
  4. Sub-Saharan Africa was by far the most behind. It did not even meet the goal for extreme poverty reduction and was 12.5 percent away from doing so.

The extreme poverty reduction goal of at least a 50 percent reduction in those living on $1.25 a day arguably had the best statistics for each country; from there it goes steadily downhill. This trend can be seen throughout the different Millennium Development Goals. Sub-Saharan Africa was far from reaching its goals, and not one country achieved the goal set for maternal mortality rate reduction.MDG_failures

Gender inequality was also a focus of the MDGs, but unfortunately, according to the United Nations, “gender inequality persists in spite of more representation of women in parliament and more girls going to school. Women continue to face discrimination in access to work, economic assets and participation in private and public decision-making.”

Although there were huge successes achieved through the MDGs, it is important to note that more than 800 million people continue to live in extreme poverty.

According to the U.N., “children from the poorest 20 percent of households are more than twice as likely to be stunted as those from the wealthiest 20 percent and are also four times as likely to be out of school. In countries affected by conflict, the proportion of out-of-school children increased from 30 percent in 1999 to 36 percent in 2012.”

In addition, the numbers for global emissions of carbon dioxide as well as water scarcity are disheartening. There has been a 50 percent increase in carbon dioxide emissions and water scarcity affects more than 40 percent of the world in comparison to 1990 statistics.

Although there have been failures in trying to implement the goals, all hope is not lost. Progress in the form of the Sustainable Development Goals is already being made.

Global leaders are regrouping, and as the U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon says, “The emerging post-2015 development agenda, including the set of Sustainable Development Goals, strives to build on our successes and put all countries, together, firmly on track towards a more prosperous, sustainable and equitable world.”

Drusilla Gibbs

Sources: IRIN News, UN
Photo: Flickr, Pixabay

progress_for_children_report
At the Millennium Summit in September 2000, world leaders came together to adopt the UN Millennium Declaration, committing to working towards eliminating global poverty. The Millennium Development Goals are time-bound, specific targets for addressing extreme poverty in many forms, such as income, hunger, disease, lack of shelter, and exclusion. Eight general goals were set forth: eradicate extreme hunger and poverty, achieve universal primary education, promote gender equality and empower women, reduce child mortality, improve maternal health, combat HIV/AIDS, malaria, and other diseases, ensure environmental sustainability, and develop a global partnership for development.

Many of the targets were intended to help the world’s children. Leaders planned to reduce the under-five mortality rate by two-thirds, ensure that all children would be able to complete a full course of primary school, and eliminate gender disparity at all levels of education.

2015 is the deadline for the MDGs, and UNICEF takes a critical look at how life for children has changed since 1990 in their report “Progress for Children.” Today, the chances that a child will not only survive, but enjoy a higher quality of life, have increased significantly, but there is still plenty of work to be done.

Great strides have been made in certain areas. Overall, the number of people living in extreme poverty has decreased, from 1.9 billion to one billion. Children today enjoy better nutrition, with a 41 percent decrease in stunting rates. Furthermore, they are more likely to get a primary school education, with the number of out of school children reduced from 104 million to 58 million. Four regions have also achieved gender parity at primary school level. The mortality rate for children under five has also fallen by 53 percent. Worldwide, most children born today enjoy many advantages over children born in 1990.

Sadly, these achievements have not reached every child. UNICEF states that the most marginalized and vulnerable children are still struggling in many areas. Children from the poorest households still endure many hardships. They are twice as likely to die before age 5. When it comes to education, they are less likely to achieve minimum learning standards, and poor girls are particularly disadvantaged in this area. Adolescent girls are disproportionately effect by HIV, accounting for two-thirds of all new HIV infections among adolescents. The gap in child marriage for rich and poor girls has also increased. Clearly, the work does not stop with the end of the MDGs’ timeline.

The UN is currently working on a new set of goals to chart a course for future progress in fighting global poverty: the Sustainable Development Goals. While developing new targets, they must consider that the most disadvantaged children cannot be left behind again. These new goals must be set with the primary objective of helping the world’s poorest children see a better future.

– Jane Harkness

Sources: UN, UNICEF, WHO
Photo: Uwezo

water_and_sanitation
Currently, approximately 2.5 billion people around the world do not have access to basic sanitation services, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

On November 19, the UN released a report highlighting the gaps in water and sanitation progress. “Water and sanitation are essential to human health. Political commitment to ensure universal access to these vital services is at an all-time high,” said WHO Director of the Department of Public Health and the Environment, Dr Maria Neira. “International aid for the sector is on the rise. But we continue to see major financial gaps at the country level, particularly in rural areas.”

Ninety-four countries were surveyed in the UN-Water Global Analysis and Assessment of Sanitation and Drinking-Water report. Data revealed that over 80 percent of these countries have enacted national policies for drinking-water and sanitation, with over 75 percent enacting policies for hygiene as well. The report also recognized that international aid for improved water and sanitation conditions is increasing. Aid rose from $8.3 billion to $10.9 billion between 2010 and 2012- an increase of 30 percent. Most recent increases in international aid have been the result of strives toward the Millennium Development Goals.

However, WHO points out the major gaps in the MDGs. Approximately 748 million people lack access to clean drinking water sources while a billion people have no sanitary system in place and are forced to practice open defecation.

Still today, hundreds of millions of people lack clean water and soap to wash their hands. This leads to transmission of diarrhoeal disease which is the second largest killer of children under five. Lack of clean water can cause many other water-borne diseases as well, including cholera, typhoid and hepatitis while poor sanitation can cause debilitating diseases like blinding trachoma, intestinal worms and schistosomiasis.

WHO reports that the key obstacles which inhibit progress to water and sanitation development include insufficient funding and weak national capabilities to carry out water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) initiatives. While statistics show that international aid is increasing, 80 percent of countries have declared that their current financial resources are too low to meet WASH targets.

The funding gap is even more extreme in rural areas which represent the majority of people in need of sanitation and water systems. According to the new report, less than 10 percent of WASH financing goes to improvement in rural areas. Additionally, the report cites challenges in implementing WASH programs in national institutions like schools and health facilities. Fewer than 30 percent of surveyed countries have institutional WASH plans that are being fully carried out, funded and reviewed.

Despite these obstacles to WASH and Millennium Development Goals, many are still hopeful that countries will get back on track to achieving their targets.

“Now is the time to act,” says Michel Jarraud, Chair of UN-Water and Secretary-General of the World Meteorological Organization. “We may not know yet what the post-2015 sustainable development agenda will look like. But we do know that water and sanitation must be clear priorities if we are to create a future that allows everyone to live healthy, prosperous and dignified lives.”

 – Meagan Douches

Sources: UN, UNHCR, WHO
Photo: U.S. Chamber Foundation

Education Comoros
Known as one of the poorest countries in the world, Comoros, an archipelago in the western Indian Ocean, has struggled to get children enrolled in schools. Education in Comoros is mandatory between the ages of six and 16, yet a large portion of the population still receives little to no education at all. Primary school lasts for six years, followed by seven years of secondary school. However, given that the country only has one university, most students seek higher education abroad.

Comorans attain an average of 2.85 years of schooling, leading to an adult literacy rate of around 75 percent. While under French rule from 1843 to 1975, Comoros based its education system after that of France. Today, the education system is composed of the formal school, taught mainly in French, and the Koranic school, due to the vast majority of Comorans being Sunni Muslims. Often as a result of financial issues, many families opt to send their children to Koranic schools, where students can receive an Islamic education for free.

Despite the school options available, enrollment rates have been on the decline, with schools being affected by political instability and unrest from teacher strikes and student protests. After the country gained independence, a large number of French teachers were let go, causing the system to be plagued by poor teacher training and even poorer results.

Dropout rates are high, with only 35 percent of students advancing to secondary school. Although enrollment for primary schools has improved, the transition to secondary school is only around 60 percent.

To cope with the constraints of the education system, the Education Sector Support Program in Comoros (PASEC) was implemented during the 2005-2010 period in collaboration with the European Union. In spite of that, it was not until recently that the country started seeing results.

Around 320 primary and secondary schools were refurnished and remodeled, while training was provided to school directors, education inspectors and teachers. Around $16.5 million has gone into PASEC and has assisted Comoros in achieving the Millennium Development Goals. With such assistance, net access to primary education has increased by six percent over the span of seven years and the gap between boys and girls enrolled in schools is steadily decreasing.

Leeda Jewayni

Sources: UNDP, World Bank, Les Comores, EEAS
Photo: Flickr

jeffrey_sachs
In a presentation at the United Nations University earlier this month, Jeffrey Sachs gave updates on the Millennium Development Goals and projections for after 2015. Sachs, one of the developers of the Millennium Development Goals and Professor of Sustainable Development at Columbia University, discussed the post-2015 future of sustainable development. With the expiration of the MDGs set for 2015, attention is turning to the Millennium Villages Project and the Sustainable Development Solutions Network.

Despite the progress of many nations agreeing to the framework of the MDGs, there is still room for improvement. In the midst of the Ebola crisis, the interdependency of the MDGs, especially focusing on maternal health, epidemic diseases and education, has emphasized a need for equal attention to the goals.

With expectations for exponential increases in global GDP and population, the need for advanced poverty relief is greater than ever. Under the new SDSN framework, set to be instituted by the United Nations after 2015, new goals will be created to target financial responsibility and climate change. In 2015, three conversations will take place in both developed and developing nations to tackle the next phase after the MDGs.

Jeffrey Sachs is seen to be among the frontrunners of the next several decades of continued development. Though the concrete plans implementing change are still yet to be solidified in the post-2015 meetings, cooperation between developed and developing nations is still going to be in the center of the plans.

In an article written in Horizons, Sachs writes, “Ours is a world of fabulous wealth and extreme poverty: billions of people enjoy longevity and good health unimaginable in previous generations, yet at least one billion people live in such abject poverty that they struggle for mere survival every day. The poorest of the poor face the daily life-and-death challenges of insufficient nutrition, lack of healthcare, unsafe shelter, and the lack of safe drinking water and sanitation.” The gap between the OCED and developing nations is growing, and Sachs is acutely aware that the growing rate of the global economy will only aggravate the poverty gap. Achieving a basic standard of living will not eliminate the poverty gap, but will ease the daily struggles of the bottom quintile.

The sustainable development framework is working to achieve a universal standard of living. Though it was intended to reach this standard by 2015, realistically, additional work under a revised viewpoint will follow in the subsequent years.

– Kristin Ronzi

Sources: UN U, UN, UNSDN, Millennium Villages, CIRSD
Photo: Flickr

infant mortality
Malawi has reached its target set by the September 2000 Millennium Development Goals: to significantly reduce infant mortality before a child’s fifth birthday.

The numbers tell it all.

In 1990, 245 out of 1000 Malawian children were dying in infancy. By 2013 this number had been reduced to 68. The average number of infant deaths in sub-Saharan Africa is 92, making Malawi an example to the world.

Very simple measures were undertaken to achieve this encouraging result.

Making sure children sleep under a mosquito net, ensuring vaccinations were given on time and providing vitamin A were among the simple, low-cost and high-impact tactics used. Now more Malawi children are surviving than ever before.

Money has been invested in basic health workers who live within the communities in Malawi who give basic medical advice, detecting illnesses, referring patients onto doctors and providing a source of health information. These local health workers encourage new mothers to breastfeed to ensure babies are getting the nutrient-rich breast milk they need to survive.

Significant process has been made, but there is still a long way to go in Malawi and in Africa as a whole. Six million children still die a year – tragically, most of these are preventable deaths.

The neonatal period is particularly perilous for new-borns. It is during the first few hours and weeks of a child’s life, known as the neonatal stage, that more children die than at any other stage. In 2013, a staggering 2.8 million babies died within 28 days of their birth. This amounts to 44 percent of recorded deaths in children under five years olds, and 60 percent of these are due to problems in labor and delivery or preterm complications.

Although there are signs that things are improving, and countries like Malawi are reaching their targets early, UNICEF is predicting that the Millennium Development Goals, which are supposed to be met in 2015, will not be achieved until 2026. During this time, more children will die preventable death before their fifth birthday, unless urgent action is taken.

Charles Bell

Sources: BBC, UNICEF
Photo: Design Observer

hunger in bhutan

Malnutrition and hunger in Bhutan is nothing new for the country or its policy makers. Although there has been a dramatic decrease in underweight children at the national level, many rural-urban disparities still exist. The Bhutan Living Standards Survey demonstrated that the eastern and southern regions face a higher degree of seasonal food deficit than the westernmost parts of the region. An estimated 37 percent of children showed signs of stunted growth, while almost 5 percent were deemed too thin for their age group.

Starting in 1974, the World Food Programme (WFP) has been helping alleviate hunger and poverty by implementing feeding projects specifically aimed at school children. Currently, the level of assistance has increased and more focus has been directed toward health, agriculture, dietary development and irrigation.

According to the WFP, roughly one-third of the Bhutanese population suffers from food insecurity. High rates of malnutrition are often seen in remote villages, where poverty is overwhelming. An estimated 12 percent of the population is considered poor. In addition, lack of access to markets and essential health services proves detrimental to the welfare of Bhutanese living in the countryside. This common occurrence is due to the high amount of natural disasters in the country. Floods and storms remain a hindrance to receiving adequate food supply, and since the Bhutanese rely heavily on agriculture, it produces a cycle of poverty and starvation.

To combat the ongoing crisis, the United Nations Development Programme has established multiple school interventions to address the problems associated with hunger in Bhutan. In collaboration with the Royal Government of Bhutan, the school feeding projects provide over 41,000 students in rural boarding schools with two meals a day. UNDP also lends assistance to raise agricultural productivity for rural farmers, as well as find jobs off the farm as a poverty reduction strategy.

With all these programs, Bhutan has seen a 24 percent decrease in poverty since 2000. Although rural areas still have a much higher percentage of the population living with food insecurity and malnutrition, the rates are much lower than in 2000. Thus the first Millenium Development Goal of halving extreme poverty and hunger by 2015 is looking like a more realistic goal for Bhutan.

Leeda Jewayni

Sources: UN, UNDP, The Examiner, World Food Programme, World Food Programme 2
Photo: Flickr