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[afro-nets] Many Countries not on Target to Reach Health-Related MDGs

Many Countries not on Target to Reach Health-Related MDGs

World Bank, World Health Organization convene high-level meeting
to map out strategy for meeting health Millennium Development
Goals (MDGs)

Geneva - The World Health Organization (WHO) and the World Bank
today warned that many developing countries will not be able to
reach health-related Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) unless
clear actions are taken, starting now and with a concerted ef-
fort over the next 12 years. More worryingly still, the organi-
zations noted that the health Goals are particularly difficult
to meet and that progress towards them is slower than towards
some other MDGs.

The eight MDGs were set at the United Nations Millennium Summit
in September 2000, where 189 countries committed to ambitious
targets for improving the health and well-being of hundreds of
millions of people in the developing world by 2015. Four of the
Goals relate to health: to halve maternal and child mortality,
halve the proportion of people who suffer from hunger, combat
HIV/AIDS, malaria and other infectious diseases, and improve ac-
cess to safe drinking water and essential drugs.

"When these kinds of targets are set, it seems too soon to take
urgent action, and then, after a few short years, it seems too
late," said Dr LEE Jong-wook, Director-General of WHO. "Where
the targets are the product of a large consensus there is also
the hazard of everyone waiting for everyone else to risk making
the first move. We still have time to avoid these pitfalls with
the targets for 2015, but to do so we have to act now."

The World Bank estimates that progress against child mortality
has so far been so slow that no sub-Saharan country in Africa is
on target to reach that MDG. At the current pace in the develop-
ing world as a whole, only 16% of countries (representing 19% of
the developing world's population) are on track for this goal.
Similarly, only 17% of developing countries are likely to meet
the maternal mortality MDG; here, Latin America and the Carib-
bean are faring worst, with just 4.2% of countries on track to
meet the target. In addition, only 40% of developing countries
are on track to reach the malnutrition MDG.

"Even with general economic growth and faster progress on the
non-health MDGs, many regions will still miss many of the health
MDG targets. We need to look at measures such as committing in-
creased resources to meeting the health-related MDGs, and using
those resources more effectively in countries," said Mr James
Wolfensohn, President of the World Bank. "Donor harmonization in
resource mobilization and use, strengthening human resources in
the health sector and improving monitoring and evaluation,
through the optic of a strong country and equity focus, will be
particularly important."

Lack of progress towards the health MDGs is likely to affect
progress towards other MDGs, such as those concerned with educa-
tion. Furthermore, for example, access to clean water and educa-
tion for mothers are both key determinants of infant and child
mortality rates.

Coming together in a high-level meeting in Geneva on 8 and 9
January, some of the most influential people in the development
field, including representatives from concerned countries, de-
velopment agencies and UN organizations will assess progress so
far towards meeting the health MDGs, and most importantly, map
out what needs to be done if the world is to stand a realistic
chance of reaching those goals.

The meeting will note that slow progress in health is particu-
larly distressing as many of the "technologies" needed to im-
prove health are available and affordable. The difficulty is
getting them to people: in other words, building strong health
systems in all countries. Lack of resources is a huge constraint
but that it is not the only issue. Delivering quality health
services in poor countries is a complex challenge, involving hu-
man resources, reliable health information and ensuring that the
poorest people are reached. Countries providing aid need also to
work together better - both to raise more money and to ensure
that advice given to poor countries is consistent. All these is-
sues will be discussed in detail during the meeting.

Recognizing the complexity of the health agenda, participants
represent a broad group with differing perspectives: Ministers
of Finance alongside Ministers of Health, donor agencies along-
side recipient countries.

The meeting will issue a final communiqué which is expected to
identify critical actions - both at the country and interna-
tional community levels - which will facilitate the scaling up
of interventions aimed at reaching the MDGs.

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