BY CHARLES KUMOLU
EVEN the meeting of world leaders in France at the end of the Second World War WW2, specifically on December 10, 1948, did not have the large number of world leaders in attendance. Little wonder the Millennium Summit in September 2000 was described as the largest gathering of global leaders in history.
Held in New York City, the three-day summit was one where some global leaders, whose memories of the cold war were still fresh, and others ignorant of the dangers posed by an evolving global terrorism, gathered on the table of brotherhood.
So uncommon was the sight of allies and foes seated at the United Nations that observers wondered what would come out of the forum.
But three days after, the leaders arrived at the Millennium Declaration which automatically became known as the the Millennium Development Goals,MDGs. The nine-page goals included eradication of extreme hunger, achieving universal primary education, promotion of gender equality and empowerment of women.
Others were reduction of child mortality, improvement of maternal health, combating HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases, ensuring environmental sustainability and developing a global partnership for development. Considering past failures at achieving some global declarations, like the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the 2015 target of the MDGs caught the imagination of the world.
Less than 20 months to the deadline, President Goodluck Jonathan has directed the office of the Senior Special Assistant on Millennium Development Goals, MDGs, to work with the Governors of the 36 states of the Federation to ensure that they meet the targets before May 2015.
Senior Special Assistant to the President on MDGs, Dr. Precious Gbenol disclosed this after presenting a report on the assessment and monitoring of the MDGs to the President. He explained that following the presidential directive, a meeting has been scheduled with the governors to work out modalities for achieving the target.
Gbenol said the President directed that “we need to dis-aggregate data more, work closely with the state governors on various issues like education where the number of out-of-school children is higher, where HIV prevalence may still be high and where the poverty indices are still high”.
The presidential aide said she made a presentation before the President which highlighted the level of commitment and what Nigeria had achieved so far with the MDGs.
With this presidential directive, many want to know how far the nation has gone in achieving the goals.
VF checks reveal that some projects have been completed while others are still ongoing in line with the goals. Though the targets vary, it was gathered that most are being worked upon by the MDGs’ offices and partner agencies.
”Yes this is one goal that has seen total commitment from global leaders and Nigeria is not left out. The awareness and zeal to meet the goals are very noticeable at their various stages,” the President Global Action Against Aids, Prof Nathan Ekesiobi told VF. This collaborates Gbenol’s assertion that “the country has been able to achieve MDGs goals one. We have been able to reduce the number of people that suffer from extreme hunger by half.
On gender equality in schools, we have also been able to achieve goals three. We have also been able to achieve goals six, which is the HIV prevalence of the country.“
Continuing, she said of HIV/AIDS: “It has been halted, reversed and is on the downward slide. Currently, the national prevalence of HIV for the country is 3.4. It rose to 5.8 and then came down to 4.8, 4.4, 4.1 and the current national prevalence of HIV for the country is 3.4.“
We were able to tell the President that the country is working very hard on achieving goals five, which is reducing maternal mortality. Between now and 2015, I am very positive that the goal will be achieved.”
Partnership with NASS
She said the MDG was collaborating with the legislative arm of government to ensure that their senatorial districts and constituencies benefit from MDG projects.
“The various amounts spent in the various constituencies around the country in 2013 are what we want to do in 2014, going forward. Our area of intervention is to look at the MDGs that are still lagging behind, like the under-five mortality rate. We need to crash it further.”
She further disclosed that her office is “looking at reaching out to certain geopolitical regions of the country, where the attendance in schools is affected. We are working out with the state governors in increasing the Federal Government’s investment, even in those states.“
Beyond these pass marks, VF learnt that although appreciable progress has been made, absence of accurate data in the country is not helping matters. ”Reliable data, we all know, is a problem in Nigeria. So tracking the successes becomes challenging,” MDG Ambassador, Obinna Chukwuezie said.
He called for careful scrutiny of various goals in order to have a competent result.
Chukwuezie who is also a the President of Journalists Initiative For Youth Employment,JIYE,declared: “It is in order for the President to give the target of May 2015, but there are areas where even beyond 2015, they will not be met. We all know the story of poverty, unemployment and maternal/infant mortality rate.”
He observed thus: “A larger percentage of the country still live in abject poverty. But I will also agree that many eligible people are in school now as a result of the Universal Basic Education and other educational programms.”
Lending his voice to the nation’s journey so far, a pediatrician and Coordinator Safe Hands Foundation, Dr. Udenze Lebeuwa refused to align with those who say that nothing has been achieved.
But he noted that much needs to be done in the health sector, particularly on infant/maternal mortality and primary healthcare.
”Statistics and various reports by different agencies have shown that women and children die in the country daily arising from complications and poor healthcare facilities. Where does that leave us?
”There is an increase from the 2010 statistics of 144 deaths daily. In every 10 minutes women die at child birth. So actions are needed in this regard. Sustainable actions are called for to reduce that. Above all, I will say that Nigeria has done well.”
Although some reports like that of Count Down to 2015, a group that tracks the MDGs punctured claims that infant/maternal mortality rate is on the increase in sub Saharan Africa, a recent report by UN and World Bank shows that 166 women die in Nigeria daily from child birth.
On his part, the President of South-South/South East Professionals, Mr Emeka Ugwu-Oju, aligned with those who hold the view that government has the capacity to monitor the MDGs. “If they say that a lot has has been achieved, I am not going to dispute that, until I have other statistics to the contrary.
“Reducing extreme poverty is now fixed for 2030 not 2015. So it is now for us to see were we are. Based on our size, I will say that a very significant number of poor people are in Nigeria,” he concluded.