As nations across the world race against time to meet the millennium development goals (MDGs) by 2015, the poorest, and the least developed, countries are being adversely affected by the decline in aid money.

The MDGs are a set of eight voluntary goals accepted by the nations in 2000 to achieve the set targets by 2015, taking 1990 as the baseline year.

According to the Millennium Development Goal Report, 2013, released by the United Nations, net aid disbursements from developed to developing countries totalled $126 billion in 2012. This represented a 4 per cent drop in real terms compared to 2011, which was 2 per cent below 2010 levels.

In 2012, bilateral official development assistance to least developed countries fell by 13 per cent to about $26 billion. However, the report shows that lower debt burdens and improved access to trade are benefiting developing countries. “This point cannot be emphasised enough. With so much to around the world to do in the next 900 days, there is not enough money in most countries to do the things that are necessary to achieve the MDGs,” it says.

Recommending nations to focus on disparities, the report says progress towards the eight MDGs has been uneven not only among regions and countries, but also between population groups within countries. People living in poverty or in rural areas remain at an unfair disadvantage. In 2011, only 53 per cent of births in rural areas were attended by skilled health personnel, against 84 per cent in urban areas. Similarly, 83 per cent of the population without access to an improved drinking water source live in rural communities.

Extreme poverty rates have halved in Eastern Asia, South-Eastern Asia and southern Asia, excluding India, five years ahead of the deadline. Although poverty remains widespread in India, according to the report progress has been substantial with the poverty rate falling from 49 per cent in 1994 to 42 per cent in 2005 and to 33 per cent in 2010. If the current pace continues, India will meet the poverty reduction target by 2015.

Although child mortality has dropped by 41 per cent in the past two decades, the world is still short of reaching the target of two-thirds reduction. The report confirms that child deaths are concentrated in the poorest regions, and in the first months of life. To turn this around, it recommends that countries, including India and Nigeria, which account for more than a third of all deaths in children under five, concentrate their efforts on the regions where the poorest live.

The report confirms that poverty is a trap that passes from one generation to the next, showing that children from the poorest households are at least three times as likely to drop out of school than children from wealthy homes.

Also, the report shows that gender-based inequalities in decision-making affect every country and limit our ability to reach MDGs. As the report says: “Whether in the public or private sphere, from the highest levels of government decision-making to households, women continue to be denied equal opportunity with men to participate in decisions that affect their (women’s) lives.”

On the environment front, the report says environmental sustainability is under severe threat and can only be addressed if there is a new level of global cooperation. Global emission of carbon dioxide is accelerating and emissions today are more than 46 per cent higher than the 1990 level.

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