Goodbye and good news: 9 big facts about Africa from the UN’s last-ever MDG report

The final report form is out, and despite all the headlines, the continent is actually in a good place, ahead of the next big push

THE United Nations has released its final report on the millennium development goals (MDGs) as it prepares to roll out their successors later this year, terming the anti-poverty effort “the most successful in history”.

The MDGs were based on the Millennium Declaration of 2000 and were couched as eight goals with the main objective of meeting the needs of the world’s poorest over a 15-year period.

Expiring this year, they will be replaced by the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), also over 15 years and which are seen as the best bet of completing the job.

The report released this week is thus the final one on the MDGs, and showed the number of people living in extreme poverty (less than $1.25 a day) has declined by more than half, falling from 1.9 billion in 1990 to 836 million in 2015, with sub-Saharan Africa improving the fastest of all developing regions.

“Following profound and consistent gains, we now know that extreme poverty can be eradicated within one more generation”, said UN secretary-general Ban Ki-moon. “The MDGs have greatly contributed to this progress and have taught us how governments, business and civil society can work together to achieve transformational breakthroughs”.

However, more than 40% of the population in the region still lives in extreme poverty, as its rate only started falling below its 1990 level from 2002, while rapid population growth, which outpaces employment opportunities, and instances of conflict mean there is still a lot to be done, the UN said.

But there are several positives the region can take from the MDG effort, the UN report showed, which the Mail & Guardian Africa highlights.

1: The 20 percentage-point increase in the net primary education enrolment rate in sub-Saharan Africa was the best globally, with 93 girls taken in for every 100 boys, from 85 girls for the same number of boys in 2000. The rate is now at 80%, from only 52% in 1990.

2: The region also improved its representation in parliament, with four of the top 10 countries in world rankings of women in parliament being from the region, with Rwanda which recorded an increase of 60 percentage points, being the outright global leader.

3:  Sub-Saharan Africa reduced the rate of its under-five mortality between 2005-2013 five times faster than it did during 1990-1995, at 4.2% per year from only 0.8% in the latter period. It now stands at 86 deaths per 1,000 live births, from 179 deaths in 1990.

4: Incidence of HIV steadily dipped, with new infections per 100 people aged 15-49 more than halving over the span of the MDGs. Southern Africa has seen new infections drop from 1.37 million to 700,000 between 2000-2013.

5: The maternal mortality ratio has also fallen by nearly half, 45%, over the past two decades, from 990 deaths per 100,000 live births, to 510 deaths. In northern Africa alone, the proportion of pregnant women who received four or more antenatal visits rose from 50% to 89% between 1990 and 2014. 

6: The region recorded an estimated reduction in malaria mortality in the under-five age group of more than 69%, translating to over 6.2 million deaths averted, primarily in that category and boosting child survival rates. A major part of this was due to the delivery of insecticide-treated nets—more than 900m in the decade to 2014.

7: The region has seen the hunger rate fall, from 33% to 23% despite volatile commodity prices, higher food and energy prices, rising unemployment and economic recessions, among other hurdles. However, because of the high population growth, the number of undernourished people has actually increased by 44 million since 1990.

8: Sub-Saharan Africa achieved a 20 percentage point increase in the use of improved sources of drinking water, helping improve the situation where nearly half of all people using unimproved sources live in the region.

9: While the region continues to have the highest prevalence of slum conditions of all regions, it has reduced this number by almost 10 percentage points since 2000.

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