This blog is intended to go along with Population: An Introduction to Concepts and Issues, by John R. Weeks, published by Cengage Learning. The latest edition is the 13th (it will be out in January 2020), but this blog is meant to complement any edition of the book by showing the way in which demographic issues are regularly in the news.

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Friday, September 17, 2010

Muddling Toward the MDGs

As we approach the United Nations world summit on the Millennium Development Goals, various UN agencies are providing their assessments of where we stand. Given the worldwide recession, the signs are encouraging, although each agency adds its caveat that we are not on track to meet the goals set 10 years ago. For example, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) reports that world hunger has eased a bit in 2010 after having exceeded one billion undernourished people in 2009.

About 925 million people are undernourished in 2010, down from a record 1.02 billion last year, which was the highest number in four decades, the FAO said in its report.
It said most of the world's hungry people lived in developing countries, where they account for 16 percent of the population in 2010.
While that marks an improvement from a level of 18 percent in 2009, the FAO warned it was lagging a U.N. target to halve the proportion of undernourished people in developing countries from 20 percent in 1990-92 to 10 percent in 2015.
Meanwhile, UNICEF reports that the child death rate has declined:
The number of children who die before reaching their fifth birthday has fallen by a third since 1990, the United Nations said on Friday, but the decline is still way off a globally agreed target to be met by 2015.
The UNICEF figures showed that child deaths are increasingly concentrated in just a handful of countries. About half of global under-five deaths in 2009 occurred in India, Nigeria, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Pakistan and China.
And the World Health Organization weighed in on improvements in maternal mortality:
The World Health Organization (WHO) said Wednesday that fewer women die each year from complications during pregnancy and childbirth than previously estimated, but efforts to sharply cut maternal mortality by 2015 are still off track.
A new WHO report found that 358,000 women died during pregnancy or childbirth in 2008, mostly in poor countries of sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia.
Last month, the outgoing Director of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) offered her assessment of progress since the ICPD--the program of action from which was at least partially merged with the MDGs:
Today there are still hundreds of thousands of women who die needlessly every year and more than 200 million with an unmet need for family planning. Though there is an increased acceptance of the reproductive health agenda, inequities are on the rise and progress has slowed in expanding the use of contraception, in meeting unmet need, and in reducing the number of teenage pregnancies amongst those who are poor and marginalized. During the past decade global health funding soared, but funding for reproductive health remained stagnant and funding for family planning actually declined.
To achieve MDG5, we have to reverse this trend and we have to reach women living in rural areas, those with little or no education, those from the poorest households and the largest generation of young people in human history.

There is, indeed, a lot of work to do...

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