Realising the promise of the Millennium Development Goals
By Indra Kumari Nadchatram
KUALA LUMPUR, 5 January 2010 – As the world embraces the New Year with renewed hope for peace, human rights and development; the dawn of this new decade also marks the two-thirds point to realise the promise of the Millennium Declaration.
In 2000, 189 countries, including Malaysia came together, pledging to half extreme poverty and hunger, reduce child and maternal mortality by two-thirds; achieve universal primary education, promote gender equality; halt the spread of HIV, malaria and other major diseases; ensure environmental sustainability; and forge a global partnership for development, all by 2015 using eight time-bound and measurable goals known as the Millennium Development Goals or MDGs.
For UNICEF, the MDGs are our blueprint to build a world fit for children. Yet, with some 14,000 children dying from hunger daily, the question that begs to be answered is if the world is on track to meet these goals with only five years remaining.
Hidden and missing out
Malaysia, luckily for her children, is benefitting from the ground breaking policies and strategies envisioned in its Outline Perspective Plans of the 1970s. As a result, several MDGs, which coincidentally cover the country’s own national development goals, have almost been realised.
Under-five child and infant mortality rates have been reduced to 6 per 1,000 live births from 18 and 16 per 1,000 live births in 1990, extreme poverty has been reduced to below 1 per cent of the population and more than 90% of primary-school going children are in school.
But despite the country’s remarkable successes, five to eight per cent of children in Malaysia are missing out on the country’s development gains and economic growth. Living on the margins of society and hidden from society in urban slums, rural villages and remote outposts, these vulnerable children are making their way through life impoverished, uneducated and vulnerable to health risks and exploitation. Tragically, life for them remains a daily struggle to survive.
Disparities undermine childhood
Disparity, be it economic, social or geographic, has a terrifying impact on childhood and development. Children are especially vulnerable to the effects of poverty and social exclusion since their physical, mental, emotional and social capacities are still evolving. This impact is harmful during their childhood but also undermines their future prospects and lifetime chances.
Careful targeting is the secret to shifting disparity to break through to the last unreached group. This includes targeted research and good data collection to gather evidence needed to inform national and state-level strategies and govern the distribution of resources.
These targeted approaches must incorporate the unique needs of each child – regardless of age, gender, ethnicity and location.
All children, especially those most vulnerable to social exclusion – children with disability; orphaned children; children living in the presence of drug abuse, violence, HIV and AIDS; children in conflict with the law as well as stateless children, both Malaysian and non-Malaysian all need careful and measured approaches which must include community consultations to ensure that the promise of their childhood is protected.
Delivering on the promise of the MDGs
The gap between those who have and those who have not, as a result of disparity, can make all the difference between a life of choices and a life of limitations.
With the Government's leadership and support from civil society, private sector and the media, it is possible to ensure that all children enjoy the right to childhood: to health, education, equality and protection from HIV, drug abuse and violence. UNICEF stands squarely with the Government and her people in support of this mission.
Making sure no child is left invisible or excluded, provides Malaysia with the foundation to achieve the MDGs. For every goal achieved, we take one step closer to creating a nation where every child has an equal opportunity to survive and thrive.