MDGs and the future

ROSES & THORNS - Alejandro R. Roces -

Yesterday, we saw the inauguration of a new administration, led by President Benigno Aquino III and Vice-President Jejomar Binay, with all the attendant hopes and dreams. To them we wish all of the success possible.

In the lead up to the May 2010 elections the United Nations Millennium Campaign-Philippines developed a vote awareness campaign called “I Vote for MDGs.” The campaign focused on raising awareness among voters of the Millennium Development Goals and encouraged voters to benchmark their electoral decision accordingly. There are approximately five years left to meet the Millennium Development Goals: Goals agreed upon in 2000.

This month the Overseas Development Institute (ODI) and the UN Millennium Development Campaign released their report on the status of Millennium Development Goals achievement. The Philippines figures prominently in the report: “The Philippines is also off track in more than 40 percent of the 21 indicators, including poverty, hunger, infant mortality and maternal health.” During the election campaign we brought up the Philippines’ less than stellar record in meeting the majority of the MDGs since they were launched in 2000. Some gains that were made from 2000 to 2003 have been lost. One area is in extreme poverty. Following official government data, the incidence of poverty has increased from 2003 to 2006 (from 30% to 32.9%). Over that same period, more families slipped into poverty as well.

The Millennium Development Goals cover eight areas, with “hard” targets and objectives built into them. The areas are achieving universal primary education, reducing in half (or eliminating) extreme poverty and hunger, gender equality, child and maternal health, combating HIV/AIDS and other poverty and circumstance related diseases (such as malaria), improving environmental sustainability and enhancing global partnerships. In some areas the Philippines has shown improvements. Overall our achievement of the MDGs is in danger.

Much has been discussed about our record in achieving universal primary school enrolment; we lag behind countries with lower GDP per capita ratios. Since 2000, the percentage of students enrolled has only slightly improved. In terms of child and maternal health the Philippines is also lagging behind: “Under-five mortality also varies significantly according to household wealth. The largest disparity is in the Philippines — 66 deaths per thousand live births in the poorest quintile compared with 21 in the richest.” (ODI report).

Overall, according to reports, the Philippines actually has been able to reduce mortality rates among children under 5 and infants since 1990. More can be done though by improving access to primary care for the impoverished. This will also help address the issues with maternal health. The Philippines has shown little improvement in this area, approximately 162 women die every 100,000 live births. Every twenty-four hours eleven women die from childbirth related complications. Again, this can be avoided by ensuring access to adequate primary care facilities and trained staff. 60% of live births (not necessarily successful) occur at home, two-thirds without a skilled healthcare provider (either a nurse or midwife).

 One of the problems with evaluating performance is that, very rarely, are there firm benchmarks to do so. We believe that the Millennium Development Goals provide hard targets and objectives that an administration’s policies and programs can utilize to evaluate performance. For example, the Philippine Medium-term Development Plan was developed around the MDGs. Yet, only in a few areas was improvement shown.

The next administration will be responsible for ensuring the Philippines achieves the Millennium Development Goals. It is our fervent hope that, even if not all can be achieved, most of them will be. There remains hope and, with proper focus and targeted programs, things like a halving of extreme poverty and hunger; a two-thirds reduction in child and maternal mortality; universal primary school enrolment; the preservation of our coastal waters and biodiversity can be achieved.

Because of the nature of the Millennium Development Goals, we hope the next administration will consider them in their policies and programs. Achieving them would be an undeniable benefit for the country.

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