In September 2000, 189 Heads of State and Government gathered at the United Nations in New York at the Millennium Summit and adopted what became known as the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and Targets. A set of time-bound goals, the MDGs are an embodiment of wider human concerns and issues – they are “people-centred” and measure human progress.
The MDGs are intended to engender national initiatives and strategies geared towards alleviating poverty and improving the standard of living of the poorest of the poor across the globe. Although the global challenge to alleviate poverty is overwhelming, these leaders decided to concentrate on eight crucial goals that touch upon available income and food, education, gender equality, child mortality, maternal health, HIV/AIDS and other major diseases, environmental sustainability, and global partnerships.
The eight goals are set to encourage all countries, rich or poor, to focus on human development problems. They have been carefully selected with the help of the UN Agencies and other international organisations. They include 18 feasible straightforward targets to be met through country policies and programmes, international aid, and civil society engagement. These targets are set to be achieved in a 25-year period from 1990 to 2015. International Development Targets, which preceded the MDGs, were derived from a series of UN global conferences held during the 1990s.
MDGs and Malawi
Malawi has made positive progress towards achieving the MDGs. Of the eight MDGs, Malawi is likely to partially achieve four:
- MDG 4: Reduce Child Mortality – the under-5 mortality rate declined from 189 per 1,000 in 2000 to 112 in 2011. With sustained investment in efforts to reduce child mortality, Malawi is likely to meet the target of 78 per 1,000 in 2015. Additionally, infant mortality rate has declined from 103 per 1,000 in 2006 to 66 in 2011, and the target for 2015 is 44.7 per 1,000.
- MDG 6: Combating HIV/AIDS, Malaria & other diseases – the HIV prevalence rate has declined between 1998 and 2011, from 24 percent to 10.6 percent, but remains very high.
- MDG 7: Environmental Sustainability – the number of households with sustainable access to improved water sources has increased from 47 percent in 2000 to 81 percent in 2011. However, the land area under forests has decreased from 41.4 percent in 1990 to 36.2 percent in 2011 and the proportion of the population using solid fuel (e.g. wood and shrubs) has increased from 97.9 percent to 98 percent.
- MDG 8: Develop Global Partnership for Development – the net Official Development Assistance (ODA) as a percentage of real Gross Domestic Product (GDP) increased from 11 percent to 13 percent.
Of note, gender disparities adversely affecting women are an underlying challenge for three of the four MDGs that are unlikely to be achieved. Of those MDGs that Malawi is unlikely to meet, progress has been quite slow.
- MDG1: Eradicate Extreme Poverty and Hunger – although poverty has declined from 52.4 percent to 50.7 percent between 2004 and 2010 (NSO IHS3 2010-11), the reduction is marginal at 1.7 percent, and highly vulnerable to relapse. Employment of 15 to 25 year olds in urban areas has increased from 1 percent to 4 percent.
- MDG2: Achieve Universal Primary Education – the education sector is especially weak in Malawi. Accessibility concerns and low quality education are compounded by minimal regulation and oversight of academic institutions. While the net enrolment rate has improved to 80.2 percent in 2011 from 78 percent in 2000, the country is unlikely to reach the 100 percent MDG target. As well, while the proportion of pupils reaching Grade 5 without repeating a level increased from 69 percent in 2000 to 73.5 percent in 2011, dropout rates are much higher for girls than for boys. Malawi has managed to increase the literacy rate by threefold since 2007 from 30 percent to 69 percent, but there is a significant disparity between men (74.4 percent) and women (57.2 percent) as was noted in 2008 census data.
- MDG3: Promote Gender Equality and Empower Women – gender inequality persists as a barrier for access to resources, economic and development opportunities, and decision-making. The ratio of girls to boys in primary school enrolment has been achieved, but not for secondary education (currently 0.78 against a target of 1). The ratio of literate women to men aged 15 – 24 stands at 0.94 against the target of 1. The share of women involved in wage employment outside the agricultural sector stands at 15 percent against the target of 50 percent. The challenge is to involve more women in productive income generating work to ensure livelihood improvement and as an avenue to strengthen empowerment. The proportion of seats held by women in Parliament, currently at 22 percent is also well below the target of 50 percent.
- MDG5: Improve Maternal Health – The maternal mortality ratio (MMR) in Malawi is one of the highest in Sub-Saharan Africa. The ratio declined from 1,120 per 100,000 live births in 2000 to 675 per 100,000 live births in 2011, but is far from the target of 155 per 100,000 live births. The rate is largely attributed to the low education and literacy levels of child-bearing aged women. Although the skilled attendance at birth is high at 71 percent, the scarcity of skilled health personnel, especially nurses and midwifes in hard-to-reach areas, is one of the main challenges in Malawi’s health sector. Human resources for maternal health are extremely limited with only 0.019 physicians per 1,000 of population, although nurses and midwives are slightly more common, at 0.284 per 1,000 of population. The high maternal mortality ratio indicates that access to and quality of emergency obstetric and neonatal care (EmONC) is an on-going concern.
In 2012, the Action Plan for the MDGs Acceleration Framework was developed, with support from the UN system, placing the girl child as an entry point to address lagging MDGs. The Action Plan was launched in March 2013, and it is currently being implemented. MDG Acceleration Framework (MAF) Toolkit December 2011