Goal 1- Poverty and hunger
Goal 2- Primary education
Goal 3- Gender equality
Goal 4- Child mortality
Goal 5- Maternal health
Goal 6- HIV/AIDS, other            diseases
Goal 7- Environmental            sustainability
Goal 8- Partnership for            development
List of goals, targets, indicators
World and regional trends
  Regional groupings
Key documents and links
Notes and disclaimer


13 June 2005

Progress towards the Millennium Development Goals, 1990-2005


Goal 1. Eradicate extreme poverty and hunger

In 1990, more than 1.2 billion people – 28 percent of the developing world’s population – lived in extreme poverty. These were the poorest of the poor, struggling to make ends meet on less than $1 a day. The target of the first Millennium Development Goal is to halve this proportion and those suffering from hunger by 2015.

By 2001, the proportion of extremely poor people fell to 21 percent in the developing world. From 1990 to 2001, rates of extreme poverty fell rapidly in much of Asia – with the number of people living on less than $1 a day dropping by nearly a quarter of a billion people – fell slowly in Latin America, changed little in Northern Africa and Western Asia, and increased from low levels in the transition economies of South-Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union. But in sub-Saharan Africa , which already had the highest poverty rates in the world, millions more fell deep into poverty.

Hunger is nearly as pervasive as extreme poverty. In 2002, an estimated 815 million people in developing countries had too little to eat to meet their daily energy needs. The proportion of people going hungry was lower in 2000-02 than in 1990-92 in all regions except Western Asia . However, the number of people suffering from hunger increased between 1997 and 2002.

The lack of food can be most perilous for young children since it retards their physical and mental development. Over 150 million children under five in the developing world are underweight, a factor contributing to over half of child deaths and lives of recurring illness and faltering growth. Child malnutrition is caused not only by food deprivation, but also by infectious diseases and lack of care.

The proportion of children who are malnourished is lower than a decade ago in all regions, with the fastest progress in Eastern Asia . Some very poor countries have been successful in reducing malnutrition even under difficult circumstances. Nevertheless, almost half the children in Southern Asia continue to be underweight. Negligible progress has been made in sub-Saharan Africa , where the number of malnourished children has actually increased, partly due to the lack of progress and the increase in overall population size.

Declining agricultural productivity and the inability to meet the needs of growing populations is the main reason for food shortages in many countries in Africa and Southern Asia . The vast majority of the world’s hungry live in rural areas and are landless or smallholder farmers or people depending on herding, fishing or forest resources. Hunger is also becoming a growing reality in burgeoning urban slums, despite the fact that the urban poor in many developing countries spend 60 per cent or more of their total expenditures on food.

Conflicts and economic failures are an increasing source of food crises. Since 1992, the proportion of food emergencies due to human-induced causes, rather than drought, has doubled. In 2004, of the 35 countries requiring emergency assistance – the majority of them in Africa – most were in conflict or post-conflict situations.

Overcoming hunger is possible, as demonstrated by more than 30 countries that reduced hunger by at least 25 per cent during the last decade. Fourteen of these countries are in sub-Saharan Africa . Strengthening agricultural production is one key to overcoming hunger, along with poverty reduction, which will demand decent and productive employment for the world’s 530 million working women and men who still live on less than $1 a day.

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Goal 2. Achieve universal primary education

Basic education is a human right. It is also fundamental to reducing extreme poverty and achieving other Millennium Development Goals. Most developing regions have made progress towards universal primary education, but some 115 million children are still out of school. More than half of these children (65 million) are girls, with a disproportionate number in sub-Saharan Africa and Southern Asia . If current trends continue, sub-Saharan Africa , Southern Asia and Oceania are not expected to achieve the goal. But the substantial improvement in primary school enrolment between 1990 and 2000 in a number of countries in sub-Saharan Africa demonstrates that success is possible.

Enrolment, however, is only half the battle. Dropping out, repeating grades and a generally poor quality education mean that many of those who do attend school fail to obtain the skills needed to function as literate individuals. In the developing regions, only 85 per cent of young women and men are literate. Women continue to be less likely to learn to read and write than men. In the least developed countries, in spite of progress in enrolment, a large proportion of girls do not complete primary school and less than 60 per cent of young women are literate.

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Goal 3. Promote gender equality and empower women

The Millennium Declaration resolves to promote gender equality and the empowerment of women as basic human rights. The Declaration also maintains that giving women their fair share is the only way to effectively combat poverty, hunger and disease and to stimulate development that is truly sustainable. Progress towards this goal is assessed by measuring gender equality in three areas: education, employment and political decision-making.

Parity between girls and boys in primary school enrolment by 2005 has been achieved, or nearly so, in most regions. The exceptions are sub-Saharan Africa and Southern and Western Asia , which could catch up with the right policies and programmes. In these same regions, even less progress is being made with respect to secondary education, with fewer than 80 girls per 100 boys enrolled. Gender disparities in tertiary educational enrolment favour girls in the developed regions, in the European countries of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), in Latin America and the Caribbean and in South-Eastern Asia. In contrast, only about 70 girls are enrolled for every boy in sub-Saharan Africa and in Southern Asia .

Women’s access to paid employment that is secure in terms of income and social benefits is still lower than men’s in most of the developing world. Despite some progress, women in Southern Asia , Western Asia and Northern Africa still hold only about 20 per cent or fewer paying jobs than men in sectors outside of agriculture. After steady improvement in Latin America and the Caribbean , women now hold well over 40 per cent of paying jobs. And in the CIS, the equality in wage employment hides a deteriorating job situation for women and men both.

Women's share of seats in parliament has been steadily increasing since the early 1990s. Nevertheless, women still hold only 16 per cent of parliamentary seats worldwide (only Rwanda and the Nordic countries have come close to parity). And, as of 1 January 2005 , only 17 countries had met the target of at least 30 per cent representation by women in parliament, which was set by the UN Social and Economic Council in 1990. By the end of 2004, 81 countries had adopted some form of affirmative action, such as party quotas or reserving seats for women in parliament to ensure their political participation.

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Goal 4. Reduce child mortality

Each year, almost 11 million children die before the age of five. That’s 30,000 children a day. Most of these children live in developing countries and die from a disease or combination of diseases that could be prevented or treated if the means were there. Sometimes the cause is as simple as a lack of antibiotics for treating pneumonia or oral rehydration salts for diarrhoea.

Global action for child survival is an ongoing challenge. In 1960, one child in five died before their fifth birthday. By 1990, the rate had fallen to one in ten. Such progress gave hope that child mortality could be cut by two thirds by 2015 – the target of Millennium Development Goal 4. But advances slowed in the 1990s. Only Northern Africa , Latin America and the Caribbean and South-Eastern Asia maintained their rapid pace. In these regions, economic growth, better nutrition and access to health care have helped spur improvements in child survival.

But in sub-Saharan Africa , where almost half of all deaths in children under five occur, progress slowed. The reasons are many, including lack of preventive care and treatment, fragile health systems, and socio-economic stagnation due to conflict, instability and AIDS. Countries in other regions that have also experienced conflict, including Cambodia and Iraq, have seen sharp increases in child mortality or no improvement since 1990. Countries reeling from AIDS, especially in Southern Africa , have also seen increases in under-five deaths.

Five diseases, including AIDS, account for half of all deaths in children under five. Among diseases that can be eradicated through immunization, measles is the leading cause of child deaths. A safe, effective and relatively inexpensive vaccine to protect against measles has been available for over 40 years. Still, this highly contagious disease strikes 30 million children a year, killing 540,000 and leaving many others blind or deaf. Coverage for measles immunization has risen slowly globally, but lags behind in sub-Saharan Africa , where more than a third of all children are still unprotected.

With adequate resources and appropriate policies, millions of young lives could be saved through simple, proven, low-cost prevention and treatment measures. Nevertheless, if current trends continue, the reduction in under-five mortality worldwide from 1990 to 2015 will be just 15 per cent. This is well short of the two-thirds reduction target pledged by world leaders in 2000.

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Goal 5. Improve maternal health

Complications during pregnancy and childbirth are a leading cause of death and disability among women of reproductive age in developing countries. M ore than half a million women die each year from such complications, and 20 times that many suffer serious injuries or disabilities that, if left untreated, can cause lifelong pain and humiliation.

Though a definitive assessment is not possible at this time, recent estimates continue to indicate high ratios of maternal mortality in sub-Saharan Africa and Southern Asia . Of an estimated 529,000 maternal deaths worldwide in 2000, 445,000 were in those two regions. The maternal mortality ratio was highest in sub-Saharan Africa , with 920 deaths out of 100,000 live births, followed by Southern Asia , with 540 deaths out of 100,000 births. A recent analysis of the limited trend data available suggests that significant declines have occurred in countries with already moderate to low levels of maternal mortality. Unfortunately, no similar progress can be discerned in high mortality settings. In sub-Saharan Africa in particular, where the risks associated with childbirth and pregnancy are by far the highest, there is no evidence that maternal mortality ratios are declining.

Women die in pregnancy and childbirth in part because health systems – especially in rural areas – are inadequate. There are too few health facilities, medicines and professionals to assist in deliveries. But reducing the number of maternal deaths is not only a health issue. It is an issue of social justice and human rights because most of these deaths are preventable.

Preventing maternal deaths will require the right combination of investment and public health policies to keep women healthy during pregnancy and to deliver basic health information. This means investments not only in health facilities, but also in water and sanitation and women’s education. The presence of skilled health attendants is essential to help women through labour and to anticipate problems. Access to fully equipped emergency obstetric care is also critical, so that complications can be treated when they arise.

Data on the proportion of births attended by skilled health personnel in 2003 indicate that progress in this area was made in South-Eastern Asia and Northern Africa . But there was no change in Sub-Saharan Africa, where maternal mortality is highest. Everywhere, except in sub-Saharan Africa , the increase in births with a skilled attendant is driven by increases in the use of doctors rather than nurses, midwives or auxiliary health workers. Coverage is universally lower in rural than in urban areas.

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Goal 6. Combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases

In the 25 years since it was first reported, AIDS has become the leading cause of premature death in sub-Saharan Africa and the fourth largest killer worldwide. More than 20 million people around the world have died of AIDS since the epidemic began. And at the end of 2004, an estimated 39.4 million people were living with HIV – the highest number on record. Nearly two thirds of them live in sub-Saharan Africa, where the prevalence rate among adults has reached 7.2 per cent. Globally, the epidemic shows no signs of slowing: 4.9 million people were newly infected with HIV in 2004, and there were 3.1 million deaths due to AIDS (500,000 of them among children under 15). In the worst affected countries of southern Africa , AIDS is an increasingly significant cause of death for children under five.

Nearly half of all people living with HIV are women. But as the epidemic worsens, the share of infected women and girls is growing. In sub-Saharan Africa , 57 per cent of those infected with HIV are female.

AIDS is not only a source of extreme human suffering. It also strains social services, exacerbates gender inequalities and child labour, and drains the labour supply. Workforce losses due to HIV/AIDS are expected to reach 28 million by 2005, 48 million by 2010, and 74 million by 2015 in the absence of widespread access to treatment.

Many other diseases are quietly draining the vitality and hope of people in the developing world. Malaria claims the lives of a million people a year, mostly young children, and is estimated to have slowed economic growth in African countries by 1.3 per cent a year. Lack of comprehensive data makes it difficult to assess whether the incidence of malaria is growing or reversing. However, there is little evidence of improvement in the world’s malaria-endemic regions.

Tuberculosis, once thought defeated, is making a comeback, helped by the emergence of drug-resistant strains and the vulnerabilities created by HIV/AIDS. Global estimates of new cases each year are rising slightly, although it is estimated that prevalence and mortality rates are falling as an increasing share of cases receive proper treatment under an internationally recommended control strategy known as “DOTS”. Whether tuberculosis can be reduced sufficiently to reach the MDG target by 2015 depends on how rapidly control programmes can be implemented, and how effectively they can be adapted to meet the challenges presented by HIV co-infection (especially in Africa) and drug resistance (especially in Eastern Europe).

Not surprisingly, all three of these diseases – AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis – are concentrated in the poorest countries. And they could be largely controlled through education, prevention and, when illness strikes, intervention.

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Goal 7. Ensure environmental sustainability

Most countries have committed to the principles of sustainable development and to incorporating them into their national policies and strategies. They have also agreed to the implementation of relevant international accords. But good intentions have not translated into sufficient progress on the ground to reverse the loss of our environmental capital. Even regions that have made significant progress towards achieving other Millennium Development Goals, such as parts of Asia, tend to have a much poorer record on environmental issues.

Reversing the loss of environmental resources, including forests, biological diversity and the earth’s ozone layer, are among the targets for Millennium Development Goal 7, along with provision of safe water, adequate sanitation and decent, affordable housing for the world’s poor. Though progress is some of these areas is encouraging, on balance, the outlook is grim.

Forests cover one third of the earth’s surface and constitute one of the richest ecosystems. They also contribute to the livelihoods of more than a billion people living in extreme poverty. Over the 10-year period from 1990 to 2000, forests shrank by 940,000 square kilometres , an area the size of Venezuela , due to conversion into farmland and other uses. But there are positive signs. Sustainable forest management practices, including agroforestry and planted forests, are increasingly being used to reduce pressure on the land and to improve the livelihoods of communities living in and around forests.

Over 13 per cent of the earth’s land surface, 19 million square kilometres, are designated as protected areas. This represents an increase of 15 per cent since 1994. The expansion of protected areas is encouraging, but their management does not always meet conservation goals. Moreover, marine environments are underrepresented, with less than 1 per cent of marine ecosystems protected. Loss of habitats and biological diversity continues, with more than 10,000 species considered under threat.

The ozone layer in the stratosphere absorbs ultraviolet radiation, which has been associated with rising levels of skin cancer and other harmful effects on living species. Through unprecedented global cooperation, the use of ozone-depleting chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) has been reduced to one tenth of 1990 levels. G lobal consumption dropped from 1.1 million tons of ozone depleting potential (ODP tons) in 1986, before the adoption of the Montreal Protocol, to about 91,000 ODP tons in 2002, with about 90,000 ODP tons consumed in developing countries. Despite this progress, stratospheric ozone depletion remains a concern as concentrations of chlorine and bromine remain high and the recovery of the protective ozone layer, while progressing, is expected only by the mid-21st century.

Per capita carbon dioxide emissions, the main source of the “greenhouse effect” causing climate change, have increased in developing countries and remained stable in the group of industrialized countries (known as “Annex I Parties”) that have ratified the Kyoto Protocol. At the world level, per capita emissions have slightly decreased, mainly as the result of a decline in industrial production in the economies in transition in the 1990s.

Progress in energy efficiency and access to clean technology and fuels is ongoing. But the transfer of these new technologies to the developing countries, where energy needs are skyrocketing, is not proceeding at a fast enough pace. Rational consumption patterns among the richest countries could also help to ensure environmental sustainability. In contrast, nearly half the world's population depend on solid fuels, including wood, dung, crop residues and coal, to meet their most basic energy needs. Indoor air pollution from cooking with such fuels is responsible for more than 1.6 million deaths annually, mostly among women and children.

Access to safe drinking water and basic sanitation is an indispensable component of primary health care and human development and a precondition for success in the fight against poverty, hunger, child deaths and in achieving gender equality. During the 1990s, progress was made in increasing access to improved drinking water sources. However, over a billion people are still unserved. Coverage remains low, especially in rural areas of Africa and in urban slums. Much slower progress has been made globally in improving sanitation coverage. An estimated 2.6 billion people – representing half of the developing world – lack toilets and other forms of improved sanitation. If the 1990-2002 trends hold, close to 2.4 billion people will still be without improved sanitation in 2015, almost as many as there are without improved sanitation today. The situation is most dire in sub-Saharan Africa and Southern Asia .

Rapid urbanization in the developing world is challenging countries’ capacity to keep up with demand, not only for safe drinking water and sanitation but also for decent, affordable housing. Nearly 1 billion people worldwide – almost 1 in 3 city dwellers – live in slums, and about 200 million new slum dwellers were added to urban communities between 1990 and 2001, representing an increase of 28 per cent.

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Goal 8. Develop a global partnership for development

The Millennium Declaration embodies partnership between developed and developing countries. It represents an agreement in which developing countries will work to maintain sound economies, to ensure their own development and to address human and social needs. Developed countries, in turn, agree to support poorer countries through aid, trade and debt relief. Millennium Goal 8 addresses ways in which developed countries can assist developing countries in achieving the other seven goals. It calls for more official development assistance; measures to ensure debt sustainability in the long term; an open, equitable, rule-based, predictable and non-discriminatory multilateral trading and financial system; and measures to address the special needs of least developed, landlocked and small island developing states.

The international community at large and donor countries in particular have strengthened their support to developing countries. There has been a turnaround in the downward trend in official development assistance (ODA) and several donor countries have made commitments to increase ODA further over coming years. As a result, ODA represented 0.25 per cent of donor countries’ total gross national income in 2003, an increase from 0.23 per cent in 2002. The total ODA commitment by the donor community in 2003 was still below the 0.33 per cent reached in 1990 and falls far short of what is widely considered to be needed to achieve the MDGs. Some progress has been made in implementing the debt relief initiative for Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC). In June 2005, the major developed countries agreed to provide for the full cancellation of the $40 billion that 18 countries owe to the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund and the African Development Bank.

While aid is critical for the poorest countries, middle-income countries benefit more from trade, which is their primary source of foreign revenue. The lack of willingness of key developed countries to make substantial concessions has slowed down the Doha trade talks, even though there was a breakthrough on a framework for negotiation in July 2004. In addition, a number of decisions in the World Trade Organization (WTO) in 2004 ruled that certain subsidies by developed countries adversely affected developing countries and should be eliminated. Overall, there remains considerable room to increase and improve development assistance, to embrace wider and deeper debt relief, and to conclude a development-oriented trade round.

Meaningful partnership between rich and poor countries also needs to address developing countries’ access to technology, medicines and jobs for their growing populations. The challenge of halving world poverty by 2015 will not be achieved without sustainable growth in decent and productive employment. The ability to absorb the roughly 514 million additional people expected to enter into world labour markets between 2003 and 2015 depends on the efforts of policymakers to give priority to employment policies and to fully integrate them into macroeconomic policies. Policymakers will need to devote specific attention to creating decent and productive employment opportunities for young people who, in the developing regions, are over three times more likely to find themselves unemployed than older workers.

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Source (charts):Statistics compiled by an inter-agency technical group of the United Nations system and Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, led by the Statistics Division, Department of Economic and Social Affairs of the United Nations Secretariat.

The Department of Economic and Social Affairs of the United Nations Secretariat is a vital interface between global policies in the economic, social and environmental spheres and national action. The Department works in three main interlinked areas: (i) it compiles, generates and analyses a wide range of economic, social and environmental data and information on which States Members of the United Nations draw to review common problems and to take stock of policy options; (ii) it facilitates the negotiations of Member States in many intergovernmental bodies on joint courses of action to address ongoing or emerging global challenges; and (iii) it advises interested Governments on the ways and means of translating policy frameworks developed in United Nations conferences and summits into programmes at the country level and, through technical assistance, helps build national capacities.