India to miss hunger, health, gender equality goals

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New Delhi, June 23

Ahead of the United Nation’s September summit to take stock of the world’s progress on Millennium Development Goals (MDG), there’s some bad news for India.

Released today, the 2010 MDG report card paints a dark picture for South Asia, including India, in respect of its ability to meet MDGs of halving poverty and extreme hunger by 2015 (MDG 1) and eliminating gender disparity up to secondary education by 2005 (target missed already by India). The situation is equally grim when it comes to child mortality and maternal mortality rates.

Contrarily, China appears set to meet most targets. Sharpest reductions in global poverty are happening in East Asia, with China all set to reduce its poverty rate to 5 per cent by 2015. Corresponding rate in India would be 24 per cent (it was 51 per cent in 1990). Number of people in extreme poverty in India “is likely” to reduce by 188 million by 2015, states the report, warning South Asia of the danger of missing MDG 1.

UNICEF India Representative Karen Hulshof agreed with the warning, saying 70 per Indians still lived below global poverty standards.

On most other MDGs, South Asia is closer to sub-Saharan Africa than to the advancing East or Southeast Asia. The 2008 financial meltdown has worsened the situation here, with India adding to its number of hungry. In South Asia, hunger rose between 2002 and 2007 from 20 to 21 per cent.

“India and Pakistan together account for the bulk of under-nutrition in South Asia, having witnessed 80 per cent rise in food prices post-2008. Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat are equal to Somalia and Congo in hunger,” economist Jayati Ghosh told the Tribune.

Data analysis shows that South Asia still has the highest child malnutrition rates globally, with 46 per cent children below five being underweight. This marks a poor 5 per cent decline from 1990 when the rate was 51 per cent.

The region also houses the highest number of working poor and those in vulnerable employments globally. In India, just 35 per cent do pair work; of them, 90 per cent in the informal sector.

The report reflects strikingly on global gender inequities in job markets, where men dominate top positions. Though more women are now in paid jobs than in 1990, they haven’t clinched senior posts. Globally, only one in four senior managers is a woman.

In South Asia, only 9 per cent women are managers and just 20 per cent employed outside agriculture are women. Gender inequalities persist in education too. While East Asia is enrolling more girls than boys in education, India, despite small gains, missed the 2005 deadline of achieving gender parity up to secondary level; it may not meet the 2015 target of equality across all education levels. Nepal, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka have done better.

Infant and maternal mortality reduction goals are also far from sight. “The annual rate of reduction of IMR and MMR is well short of 5.5 per cent which was needed to meet these MDGs.” Over 99 per cent women who die globally in childbirth are in South Asia, with just one in four rural women getting any antenatal care.

Though the region has stabilised the AIDS epidemic, it could miss the target of combating malaria/TB. India has the highest malarial deaths in the world --- 30,000 annually.

Alarming Situation

The 2010 Millennium Development Goals report card paints a dark picture for South Asia, including India, in respect of its ability to meet targets of halving poverty and extreme hunger by 2015 and eliminating gender disparity up to secondary education. The situation is equally grim on child mortality and maternal mortality front.
 
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