MDG Targets High Hope

In spite of the growing political instability and chaos, Nepal is close to achieving several of the eight Millennium Development Goals by 2015<br>A CORRESSPONDENT

Sept. 24, 2010, 5:45 p.m. Published in Magazine Issue: Vol.4, No.-08 September 24-October 7, 2010
“It was the best of the times, it was the worst of the times … it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness…, we have everything before us, we had nothing before us…”

That is how English novelist Charles Dickens described a situation in his A Tale of Two Cities. Present day Nepal needs a similar description.
Looking at the country’s rift-ridden politics, many people conjure up a situation of darkness as if it was the worst of the times. But not everything has ground to a halt.

Looking at the progress made towards the Millennium Development Goals, it may be described as a season of light and hope with everything before us.

Thanks to the support of Nepal’s development partners and dedication of Nepalese bureaucrats and technicians, Nepal is close to achieving several of the eight globally agreed Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) related to poverty, education, health and environmental sustainability by 2015.
Although Nepal has been passing through a phase of sinister conflict and political instability, its progress in terms of MDGs is no mean feat. This was the reason why all Nepal’s development partners, political leaders and planners felt a sigh of relief when this progress report was launched.

“We need to be proud of the progress we have made in the MDGs but we need to be cautious about how to sustain them and achieve the remaining targets,” said Navodita Chaudhary, chairperson of Social and Cultural Solidarity Committee and member of the MDG group of CA members.

“This is especially impressive given the fact that the country is emerging from a decade-long conflict and political instability. Nepal has made a striking progress in reducing poverty, in getting children into schools and in saving the lives of children and mothers. The national averages continue to mask significant disparities between ethnic, social and economic groups, amongst rural and urban populations and people living in the mountains, in remote areas and in the terai (plains),” said the report.

The progress
After the completion of two thirds of the time, Nepal needs to focus on eradicating inequality and social exclusion to achieve the MDGs and to sustain peace. According to Nepal’s third MDGs Report, which was released recently, poverty came down to 25.4 percent in 2009 from 42 percent in 1996. These gains have been most impressive in the last five years with a 5 percent drop in poverty. Yet a quarter of the population still lives below the national poverty line and inequality is increasing.

One of the grim sides of the report is growing disparities. The proportion of working poor people who are working but earn less than a dollar a day- is more than one in five. On hunger, the picture is grim with close to 40 percent of children below the age of five underweight.

Along with this grim picture, there is, however, good news on primary education with enrolment rates at 93.7 percent and parity in the ratio of girls to boys. The gender gap remains high in some reigons like in terai where fewer girls than boys are enrolled.

Fewer infants and under-five children are dying in Nepal today with significant improvements between 2001 and 2006. By 2009, the infant mortality rate was estimated to have dropped to 41 per 1000 live births. Under-five mortality rate was 50 per 1000 live births, down from the 162 of 1990. The country is on track to achieve this goal, the report says.

There are stark disparities as well. The chances of surviving up to age five are more than seven times higher for children born to mothers with high school or higher education- 13 per 1000 live births, as compared to children born to mothers with no education at a high 93 per 1000 live births. The report points to similar disparities in the chances of women surviving childbirth. Significant disparities are observed between women living in cities and those living in the hills, between those with higher levels of education, wealth and higher caste and those disadvantaged by poverty, caste or ethnic identity. The maternal health goal is likely to be met and maternal mortality rates are down from 850 in 1990 to an estimated 299 per 100000 live births in 2010.

An important thing of note is that Nepal has already achieved the 2015 target of bringing down undernourished population from 49 percent to 25 percent. Still, despite other gains, over 200,000 children are estimated to be out of school and those who are out of the education system are the most marginalized and hardest to reach.

“Has Nepal got what it takes for a sprint on the final stretch to the MDG 2015 finish line? We know what needs to happen to turn these indicators around for good-sound policies that are sustained from one to the next, clear roles and responsibilities for all those involved, greater resources directed to the next generation, clear roles and responsibilities for all those and a lesser focus on results. Nepal has shown the way on maternal and infant mortality- let’s apply the lessons to hunger, sanitation, and inequality,” said Robert Piper, UN Resident Coordinator for Nepal.

Nepalese society has been passing through a political crisis, having changed three prime ministers in just four years and two political systems and two constitutions. The report reveals that the gap between haves and have-nots is also increasing.

The income inequality increased from 0.34 in 1996 to 0.41 in 2004 and recent estimates have shown that it has further increased to 0.46 in 2008/09. To address the challenges of social inclusion, the report recommends that the government should make the redistribution of benefits, social justice and mainstreaming of marginalized populations and geographic areas as its overarching goal.

All the targets are not on the track. The targets that are not on track are full and productive employment for all, and reducing green house gas emissions to halt climate change. Significant challenges also remain in areas like reducing hunger, women’s empowerment, protecting bio-diversity and in providing access to clean water and sanitation.

According to the report, food insecurity is a major problem for many Nepali people. High dependence on traditional agriculture, low productivity, small landholdings, limited off-farm and wage-earning opportunities, low wages/incomes, and various deep-rooted structural discriminations and exclusions are major factors causing food insecurity at the household level. The geographic terrain combined with lack of basic infrastructure and access to new technology make it virtually impossible for some areas to be food-sufficient in the foreseeable future. With only five years left until the 2015 deadline to achieve Millennium Development Goals, UN secretary General Ban Ki-moon has called on world leaders to attend a summit in New York on 20-22 September to accelerate the progress towards the MDGs.

The report says macro-economic indicators, especially over the last two years, show serious weaknesses. The balance of payments deficit continues, with the weak fiscal discipline, dependency on imports for revenue and an unfavorable investment environment.
“Has Nepal got what it takes for a sprint on the final stretch to the MDG 2015 finish line? We know what needs to happen to turn these indicators around for good-sound policies that are sustained from one to the next, clear roles and responsibilities for all those involved, greater resources directed to the next generation, clear roles and responsibilities for all those and a lesser focus on results. Nepal has shown the way on maternal and infant mortality- let’s apply the lessons to hunger, sanitation, and inequality,” said Robert Piper, UN Resident Coordinator for Nepal.

Nepalese society has been passing through a political crisis, having changed three prime ministers in just four years and two political systems and two constitutions. The report reveals that the gap between haves and have-nots is also increasing.

The income inequality increased from 0.34 in 1996 to 0.41 in 2004 and recent estimates have shown that it has further increased to 0.46 in 2008/09. To address the challenges of social inclusion, the report recommends that the government should make the redistribution of benefits, social justice and mainstreaming of marginalized populations and geographic areas as its overarching goal.

All the targets are not on the track. The targets that are not on track are full and productive employment for all, and reducing green house gas emissions to halt climate change. Significant challenges also remain in areas like reducing hunger, women’s empowerment, protecting bio-diversity and in providing access to clean water and sanitation.

According to the report, food insecurity is a major problem for many Nepali people. High dependence on traditional agriculture, low productivity, small landholdings, limited off-farm and wage-earning opportunities, low wages/incomes, and various deep-rooted structural discriminations and exclusions are major factors causing food insecurity at the household level. The geographic terrain combined with lack of basic infrastructure and access to new technology make it virtually impossible for some areas to be food-sufficient in the foreseeable future. With only five years left until the 2015 deadline to achieve Millennium Development Goals, UN secretary General Ban Ki-moon has called on world leaders to attend a summit in New York on 20-22 September to accelerate the progress towards the MDGs.

The report says macro-economic indicators, especially over the last two years, show serious weaknesses. The balance of payments deficit continues, with the weak fiscal discipline, dependency on imports for revenue and an unfavorable investment environment.

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