We’re building a new UNICEF.org.
As we swap out old for new, pages will be in transition. Thanks for your patience – please keep coming back to see the improvements.

Press centre

Millenium Development Goals

GOAL 1: Eradicate extreme hunger and poverty

- Most UNICEF-relevant target: Halve, between 1990 and 2015, the proportion of people who suffer from hunger.

  • All regions have made progress in reducing the prevalence of underweight children. As of 2011, 30 countries were on track to meet the MDG 1 target.  .Globally, over one third of children in rural households are stunted compared to one quarter in urban households.
  • Poverty rates have been halved, and about 700 million fewer people lived in conditions of extreme poverty in 2010 than in 1990.
  • One in eight people still go to bed hungry, despite major progress.
  • Globally, more than 29 million children under age five,  an estimated 5 per cent, suffered from severe acute malnutrition or wasting.  .An estimated 7 per cent of children under age five worldwide are now overweight, another aspect of malnutrition; one quarter of these children live in sub-Saharan Africa.
  • The hunger reduction target is within reach if recent slowdowns in progress can be reversed.
  • According to new estimates, about 870 million people, or one in eight worldwide, did not consume enough food on a regular basis to cover their minimum dietary energy requirements over the period 2010 to 2012.
  • The vast majority of the chronically undernourished (852 million people) reside in developing countries.
  • More than 100 million children under age five, in 2011 were still undernourished and underweight.
  • Despite steady gains, one in four children under age five around the world are stunted (26 per cent in 2011).

GOAL 2: Achieve universal primary education

- Most UNICEF-relevant target: Ensure that, by 2015, children everywhere, boys and girls alike, will be able to complete a full course of primary schooling.

  • Globally, 123 million youth (aged 15 to 24) lack basic reading and writing skills; 61 per cent of them are young women.
  • In 2011, 57 million children of primary school age were out of school, down from 102 million in 2000. More than half of these out-of-school children live in sub-Saharan Africa.
  • The lowest rates of primary school participation are in sub-Saharan Africa, where only 77 per cent of primary-school-aged children are in school.
  • The progress seen at the start of the decade has slowed considerably. Between 2008 and 2011, the number of out-of-school children of primary school age fell by only 3 million. If current trends continue, the world will not meet the goal of universal primary education by 2015.
  • One in four children who enter primary school will probably leave before reaching the last grade. Among the 137 million children who entered first grade in 2011, 34 million are likely to leave before reaching the last grade of primary school.
  • Sub-Saharan Africa is home to more than half the world’s out-of-school children. Between 2000 and 2011, the adjusted primary net enrolment rate increased from 60 per cent to 77 per cent. However, the region continues to face a rising demand for education from a growing population. In 2011, 32 million more children were of primary school age than in 2000.
  • Household poverty is the single most important factor keeping children out of school. Children and adolescents from the poorest households are at least three times as likely to be out of school as their richest counterparts.
  • Location of residence also matters. Rural children are nearly twice as likely to be out of school as urban children.
  • Children from poorer households are more likely to delay the start of their education for a number of reasons, including poor health and nutrition and the risks associated with travelling long distances to school. Children who start school late are more likely to drop out before completing their education.

GOAL 3: Promote gender equality and empower women

- Most UNICEF-relevant target: Eliminate gender disparity in primary and secondary education, preferably by 2005, and in all levels of education no later than 2015.

  • It is expected that roughly 17 million primary school aged girls will never enroll in school.
  • In 2011, girls accounted for approximately 53 per cent of children of primary school age who are out of school, compared to 58 per cent in 2000. Overall, 57 million children of primary school age are out of school, of which 31 million are girls.
  • Gender parity is closest to being achieved at the primary level; however, only 2 out of 130 countries have achieved that target at all levels of education.
  • Although more girls are now in school in sub-Saharan Africa, only 93 girls are enrolled in primary school for every 100 boys.
  • Girls in many countries are still unable to attend school and complete their education due to: safety-related, financial, institutional and cultural barriers; pressure for early marriage; sexual harassment, and violence in and out of educational settings; religious constraints; and vulnerability to HIV and AIDS.
  • Even when girls are in school, poor quality of education, low aspirations, or household chores and other responsibilities keep them from attending and learning.
  • Gender disparities become more marked in secondary education. Girls continue to be at a disadvantage to boys in sub-Saharan Africa, Western Asia and Southern Asia.

GOAL 4: Reduce child mortality

- Most UNICEF-relevant target: Reduce by two-thirds, between 1990 and 2015, the under-five mortality rate.

  • Today more children survive beyond their fifth birthday than ever before, thanks to global efforts to end preventable child deaths. About half as many children under-five died in 2012 than in 1990.
  • The world will not reach Millennium Development Goal 4 before 2028, if current trends continue. In 2012, around 6.6 million children died before their fifth birthday, -- that’s 18,000 per day. The global community must take immediate action to accelerate progress. As a cost of inaction 35 million more children will die from mostly preventable causes between 2015 and 2028.
  • Since 1990, 216 million children have died before their fifth birthday. This is more than the current total population of Brazil, the world’s fifth most populous country.
  • The rate of decline in under-five mortality is still insufficient to reach the MDG goal by 2015, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia. Across all regions, under-five mortality is higher in rural areas, in the poorest households, and among less educated mothers.
  • 17,000 fewer children, under age five, died each day in 2012 than did in 1990 – thanks to more effective and affordable treatments, innovative ways of delivering critical interventions to the poor and excluded, and sustained political commitment.
  • Vital child survival interventions have helped to save the lives of an estimated 90 million children in the past 22 years. That’s practically the population of Germany.
  • Encouragingly, the world is currently reducing under-five deaths faster than at any other time during the past two decades. The global annual rate of reduction has steadily increased since 1990-1995, when it stood at 1.2 per cent, more than tripling to 3.9 per cent in 2005-2012.
  • Despite steep challenges, a number of countries with very high rates of child mortality in 1990 have defied the odds, showing that progress for all children is within our grasp. Bangladesh and Liberia, for example, have achieved reductions in under-five mortality of at least two thirds since 1990. Ethiopia, Madagascar, Malawi, Niger and Rwanda in sub-Saharan Africa, and Bhutan and Nepal in Southern Asia, have seen reductions of at least 60 per cent.
  • Newborns in their first month of life now account for a growing share of child deaths –from about 37 per cent in 1990 to 44 per cent in 2012.
    1) In 2012, 2.9 million newborn babies died during their first month of life.
    2) Most neonatal deaths are from preventable causes such as sepsis and meningitis, pneumonia and diarrhea,  complications during labour and birth, and complications from prematurity.
    3) The heaviest burdens are in South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa, where more than 75 per cent of all newborn deaths occur.
    4) More than 4 in 10 of all neonatal deaths occur in just three countries – India, Nigeria and Pakistan.
    5) Solutions should focus on maternal care, specifically labour and delivery care.  Other high-impact interventions include care during the 24 hours around the time of birth, early and exclusive breastfeeding, keeping the baby warm, proper hygiene, antibiotics to treat infection, and neonatal resuscitation.

GOAL 5: Improve maternal mortality

- Most UNICEF-relevant target: Reduce by three-quarters, between 1990 and 2015, the maternal mortality ratio.

  • Every day, approximately 800 women die from preventable causes related to pregnancy and childbirth, based on 2010 estimates.
  • Ninety-nine per cent of all maternal deaths, in 2010, occurred in developing countries. Young adolescent girls face a higher risk of complications and death as a result of pregnancy than older women.
  • Maternal mortality has declined by nearly half since 1990, but falls far short of the MDG target.
  • Globally, the maternal mortality ratio declined by 47 per cent over the past two decades, from 400 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births in 1990 to 210 in 2010. All regions have made progress, with the highest reductions in Eastern Asia (69 per cent), Northern Africa (66 per cent) and Southern Asia (64 per cent).
  • Most maternal deaths can be prevented if births are attended by skilled health personnel who have the appropriate equipment and supplies and can refer women in a timely manner to emergency obstetric care services when complications arise.
  • By 2011, coverage by skilled birth attendants increased overall, but the urban-rural gap persisted: More than half (53 per cent) of women in rural areas received skilled attendance at delivery, versus 84 per cent in urban areas. In sub-Saharan Africa and Southern Asia, the gaps were even larger.
  • In developing regions, the proportion of deliveries attended by skilled personnel rose from 55 per cent in 1990 to 66 per cent in 2011. Still, in about 46 million of the 135 million live births in 2011, women delivered alone or with inadequate care.
  • In developing regions, coverage of antenatal care (at least one visit with a doctor, nurse or midwife during pregnancy) increased from 63 per cent to 81 per cent from 1990 to 2011.
  • In 2011, only 36 per cent of pregnant women in Southern Asia and 49 per cent in sub-Saharan Africa received at least four antenatal care visits during their latest pregnancy.
  • Although progress has been made in reducing the birth rate among adolescents, more than 15 million out of 135 million live births worldwide are among women between the ages of 15 and 19.
  • The highest birth rate among adolescent girls aged 15 to 19 is in sub-Saharan Africa (118 births per 1,000 girls), which has made the least progress since 1990, both in relative terms and absolute numbers.

GOAL 6: Combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases

Most UNICEF-relevant targets: Have halted by 2015 and begun to reverse the spread of HIV/AIDS; Achieve by 2010, universal access to treatment for all those who need it; Have halted by 2015 and begun to reverse the incidence of malaria and other major diseases.


Malaria prevention (through Insecticide-Treated Nets) and Tuberculosis

  • In the decade since 2000, 1.1 million deaths from malaria were averted.
    1) Major progress has been made in the fight against malaria, particularly in the scale-up of insecticide treated nets (ITNs) in endemic regions. ITN use is equitable in most countries, largely due to widespread campaigns to distribute free nets.
    2) While girls and boys throughout sub-Saharan Africa are equally likely to benefit from malaria interventions, rural children with fever are less likely than urban children to receive antimalarial drugs.
  • Treatment for tuberculosis has saved some 20 million lives between 1995 and 2011.

GOAL 7: Ensure environmental sustainability

- UNICEF-relevant target: Halve, by 201, the proportion of people without sustainable access to safe drinking water and basic sanitation.

  • The MDG drinking water target has been reached: Over 2 billion people gained access to improved water sources from 1990 to 2010, and the proportion of the global population still using unimproved sources is estimated at only 11 per cent. This is less than half of the 24 per cent estimated for 1990.
  • More than 2.1 billion people have gained access to improved drinking water sources between 1990 and 2011, exceeding the MDG target.
  • Eighty-three per cent of the population who lack access to an improved drinking water source (636 million) live in rural areas.
  • Yet in 2011, 38 per cent of the 6.2 billion people globally using an improved drinking water source do not enjoy the convenience and associated health and economic benefits of piped drinking water at home. Instead, they spend valuable time and energy queuing up at public water points and carrying heavy loads of water home, often meeting only minimal drinking water needs.
  • It is encouraging to note that the share of people relying on untreated surface water as their main drinking water source dropped from 6 per cent in 1990 to 3 per cent in 2011. Still, over 180 million people rely on rivers, streams, ponds or lakes to meet their daily drinking water needs.
  • Progress has been made in the use of improved drinking water sources,  but reaching the last 10–15 per cent of the population remains a challenge.
  • Societies can only develop in a sustainable manner if the basic needs and rights of children are met.  Addressing water and sanitation issues helps to increase the resilience of communities to adapt to the water-related impacts of climate change.

Improved sanitation facilities

  • Globally, 63 per cent of people gained access to a latrine, flush toilet or improved sanitation facilities, an increase of almost 1.8 billion people since 1990.
  • Globally, 79 per cent of the urban population use an improved sanitation facility, compared to 47 per cent of the rural population.
  • The proportion of the global population that resort to open defecation declined from 24 per cent in 1990 to 15 per cent in 2011. Still, over one billion people lack sanitation facilities and continue a practice that poses serious health and environmental risks to themselves and entire communities. In several countries (including Benin, Burkina Faso, India and Nepal) 95 per cent or more of the poorest people practice open defecation, and progress in sanitation coverage for the poorest 40 per cent has been minimal from1995 to 2010.

Updated – September 2013



New enhanced search