How is the world faring with the MDG targets?

An event to celebrate Ethiopia’s meeting of the Millennium Development Target for drinking water. How did the rest of the world fare on achieving the MDGs? Photo by: UNICEF Ethiopia / CC BY-NC-ND

Published every quarter, the World Bank’s World Development Indicators are one of the go-to sources for those looking to see a snapshot of the development of a particular region or a country in a certain income group.

While the recently released WDI includes three new indicators — shared prosperity, statistical capacity and particulate matter concentrations — the 2015 data is particularly interesting because it represents the last set of figures that gauges the progress made toward the Millennium Development Goals, which will expire this year.

In the developing world, two MDG targets will likely be missed: curbing infant mortality and reducing maternal mortality. A closer look at low-income countries, however, shows that improved sanitation is also seriously off target.

Targets on child mortality, maternal mortality and improved sanitation are off the mark.

Below is a more detailed picture of how the world is faring with the MDG targets.

MDG 1.1 Extreme poverty

Most sub-Saharan African countries are unlikely to meet the extreme poverty target.

The majority of countries in the developing world have already met the target of halving the proportion of people living on less than $1.25 a day. Still, the burden of extreme poverty is high in sub-Saharan Africa, where 21 countries are unlikely to hit the 2015 target. The World Bank’s Global Monitoring Report noted that the extent of poverty in the region, which could stand at 23.6 percent by 2030, has not met the momentum needed for extreme poverty to be significantly slashed.

MDG 1.9 Undernourishment

Thirty-six percent of developing countries are likely to miss the target of halving the proportion of the population suffering from hunger by half.

Fifty-two developing countries are likely to miss the target of reducing the proportion of people suffering from hunger by half this year. In the Middle East and North Africa, where 11 countries are off target, the majority are expected to be unable to reduce the proportion of population below the minimum level of dietary energy consumption. While sub-Saharan Africa has a lower percentage of its population suffering from undernourishment, the region has 17 countries that are unlikely to achieve the target this year.

MDG 2.1 Primary education completion

More lower-middle-income countries are unlikely to achieve the primary education target.

Twenty-eight percent of developing countries have already met the target of having children complete a full course of primary schooling, but 28 percent of these countries are also a long way from achieving it. Compared with the low-income category, where 26 percent of countries are likely to miss the target, more lower-middle-income countries have a lower net enrollment ratio in primary education. Among the regions, sub-Saharan Africa and Latin America and the Caribbean are the most in need of catching up with the primary education target.

MDG 3.1 Education gender parity

Most small states and Latin American and Caribbean countries have succeeded in eliminating gender disparity in education.

Eliminating gender disparity in primary, secondary and tertiary education has been met with considerable success in the developing world, where 46 percent of countries have already hit the target and 7 percent have shown sufficient progress. The high proportion of small states and Latin American and Caribbean countries that have succeeded in ensuring equal access to education for girls and boys is also encouraging. But in the Middle East and North Africa, a lot more needs to be done to attain gender balance in school classrooms.

MDG 4.1 Under-5 mortality

A significant chunk of fragile countries and conflict-affected areas is unlikely to meet the target of reducing under-5 mortality by two-thirds.

An overall picture of deaths of children younger than five years in the developing world shows that 23 percent of countries are unlikely to meet the target of reducing by two-thirds the rate of under-5 mortality. In fragile and conflict-affected settings, the rate worryingly climbs to 45 percent — a grim reflection of the dangers that children are exposed to in these situations. The under-5 mortality is also high in small states, where 42 percent of countries are unlikely to reach the target.  

MDG 4.2 Infant mortality

The majority of developing countries are unlikely to meet the child mortality target.

Seventy-seven developing countries are in dire need of lowering their infant mortality rate to meet the target of reducing child mortality. In East Asia and the Pacific and sub-Saharan Africa, the percentage of countries that are unlikely to achieve the target is strikingly high. Meanwhile, there is a large proportion of small states and conflict-affected environments that are similarly unable to meet the target this year.

MDG 5. 1 Maternal mortality

A high percentage of Latin American and Caribbean countries are off target in maternal mortality reduction.

Eighty-eight developing countries are likely to miss the target of reducing maternal mortality by three-quarters this year. Most Latin American and Caribbean countries, in particular, are off the maternal mortality reduction mark. While the proportion of sub-Saharan African countries that are unlikely to achieve the target is lower, the region had a maternal mortality ratio of 510 per 100,000 live births in 2013 — the highest in the world.

MDG 7.8 Improved drinking water source

Most fragile countries and conflict-affected settings are unlikely to meet the target of increasing the proportion of the population with access to safe drinking water.

Most developing countries have already hit the target of halving the proportion of people without sustainable access to safe drinking water — a feat that may likely be due to the investments that donors have made in potable water treatment plants. South Asia, which has the highest percentage of countries that have already met the target, is the only region with no countries that are far from achieving the target, although 13 percent of South Asian countries do not have sufficient data for this particular indicator. Meanwhile, in fragile countries and conflict-affected areas, where the supply of potable water can be interrupted or even cut, the majority are unsurprisingly unlikely to meet the target.

MDG 7.9 Improved sanitation

Several sub-Saharan African countries are expected to miss the target of increasing the number of people with access to improved sanitation.

Most sub-Saharan African countries are likely to miss the target of reducing the number of people without access to proper sanitation by half this year. The proportion of the population using improved sanitation facilities is also lowest in sub-Saharan Africa, which only had 30 percent of its population with access to better sanitation in 2012. Recently, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation raised awareness of the need for better sanitation indicators.

Check out more funding trends analyses online, and subscribe to Money Matters to receive the latest contract award and shortlist announcements, and procurement and fundraising news.

About the author

  • Anna Patricia Valerio

    Anna Patricia Valerio is a former Manila-based development analyst who focused on writing innovative, in-the-know content for senior executives in the international development community. Before joining Devex, Patricia wrote and edited business, technology and health stories for BusinessWorld, a Manila-based business newspaper.