Globally, there is much to celebrate some victories and recommit where we are lagging. Globally, there is much to accelerate. Just fewer than one billion people have been lifted out of poverty since 1990. The number of primary school age children out of school has been reduced by 37 million in the space of only 10 years.
Progress is evident in reducing child and maternal mortality, improving gender parity, and increasing access to HIV treatments, to name a few of the important areas of progress. At the same time the share of poor people is declining and the absolute number of the poor in South Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa is actually increasing. And countries that achieved rapid reductions in income poverty are not necessarily making the same progress in gender equality and environmental sustainability. It also appears increasingly clear that attention to the quality of education and health services may have suffered in the rush to extend coverage.
For its part, Nepal has much to be proud of on the MDG front. This is nothing short of extraordinary given some of the political and economic challenges faced by this country. Without wanting to steal professor Bajracharya’s (Pushkar Bajracharya NPC Member) thunder, I do want to recognize the extraordinary achievements in the areas of child and maternal health in particular. With infant mortality dropping closer to 40 and under five child mortality to 50 per 1000 live births, these figures are almost three times lower than 1990. Maternal Mortality ratio has reduced dramatically from 850 to 229- a fourfold drop.
Nepal is well on track to achieving these two goals. Credit must go to Government for making the right policy choices- such as the National Safe Motherhood Plan and the Health Sector Assistance Program- and to the vital front-line work of service providers themselves, for their extraordinary work at the community. Nepal’s bilateral and multilateral partners have also been there for Nepal on this journey.
The report also articulated eloquently the outstanding challenges for Nepal. And in calling for the kind of MDG progress that is more equitable- by gender, by region, by caste- the bridge between our discussions and the discussions taking place in the corridors of the CA or party HQ is abundantly clear- progress on the MDGs is good for Nepal. But the right kinds of progress on the MDGs are essential for peace.
I am glad to see that many of the recommendations from this report have already made a mark on the approach paper which was recently endorsed by National Development Council. This underlines the government’s commitment to the MDGs.
Has Nepal got what it takes 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 we sustained from one year to the next, clear roles and responsibilities for all those involved, greater resources directed to the community level for allocation and oversight and a lesser focus on results. Nepal has shown the way on maternal and infant mortality- let’s apply the lesions to hunger, water, sanitation and inequality. So we can start planning now for an even bigger celebration.
(Piper is a UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator. Excerpts of the statement delivered at the launch of 3rd MDG progress report of Nepal on 7 September)