Nepal and MDGs- Alarming figures

Although a few of these goals seem attainable, some other goals appear to be overly ambitious.The moot question, however, remains: will meeting the MDGs contribute significantly to eradicating extreme poverty in Nepal?

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AJITA SINGH
Is the country well on its way to achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) by the target year of 2015? Again, how relevant are the MDG’s in so far as Nepal’s real development goals are concerned? In other words, how much of an impact will the achievement or non-achievement of these goals have on the overall well-being of the people?

Significant resolutions under the MDGs are: to halve the proportion of people whose income is less than $1 per day and who suffer from hunger on a daily basis; achieve universal primary education; promote gender equality and empower women; reduce by two-third the under-five mortality rate, bring down by three-quarters the maternal mortality rate; combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases; integrate the principles of sustainable development into the country’s policies and programs; reverse the loss of environmental resources; halve the proportion of people who are living without sustainable access to safe drinking water and provide basic sanitation; and develop a global partnership for development by 2015.

Although a few of these goals seem attainable, some other goals appear to be overly ambitious. The moot question, however, remains: will meeting the MDGs contribute significantly to eradicating extreme poverty in Nepal, when the scope of MDGs is in itself limited to projections that our development experts consider as attainable within a stipulated period of time?

According to National Planning Commission, the poverty rate of Nepal stands at 25.16 per cent. While the poverty rate in the eastern region is 21 per cent, in the far western region (with the lowest development index) it is 42 per cent. In the rural hills of the mid- and far-western regions, 39 per cent of the population lives below the poverty line. In the urban Tarai and Kathmandu, poverty stands at 22 and 11 per cent respectively. The national average income is less than Rs 53 per day.

These figures not only show the daunting task that lies ahead, but are also stark reminders of the huge development gap arising from regional imbalance in planning. The same comment may be made of the urban bias that informs the minds of planners. It is not the aim of the MDGs to correct this state of affairs and as long as the mindset of planners is informed with favored preferences for cities and particular regions, the MDGs will continue to remain at best peripheral in so far as the country’s development paradigm is concerned.

With the inflation rate in the double digit, simply helping people earn a little more than $1 per day will in no way guarantee them enough nutrition, shelter, education, safe drinking water, proper sanitation and health care. This means that abject poverty will continue to remain their lot even if the MDGs are a resounding success.

On the health front, vigorous programs to save live births have to be implemented in all regions. The rate of under-weight children (obviously the result of under- nourishment) below five years stands at 38.8 per cent and infant and maternal mortality rates are still as high as 43.13 and 170 deaths per 1000 live births.

With regard to education: According to the Economic Report 2012, literacy rate of the population over 15 years of age is 56.5 per cent. Though reports show that 94.5 per cent girls and 95.6 per cent boys are enrolled at the primary level, the high dropout and repetition rates ensure that the maximum number of children do not enter the secondary level. Among grade one students in 2011-2012, 21.3 per cent repeated the same grade and 7.9 per cent dropped out from the school education system.

Another interesting fact that shows the glaring disparity in terms of education opportunity is that Dalit and Janajati students comprise only 19.7 and 38.5 per cent respectively. In relation to safe drinking water and sanitation, on an average, 10,500 children die of water-borne diseases such as dysentery and gastroenteritis every year. Water, Sanitation and Hygiene National Summit 2012 reported that only 80.38 per cent of the population has access to drinking water. Though national sanitation coverage reached 62 per cent in 2011, only 48, 49 and 50 per cent of the population in the far-western, mid-western and Tarai regions have availed the facilities, respectively.

According to the same report, 75.1 per cent of drinking water projects are being operated without regular maintenance. Another report prepared by World Health Organization and UNICEF states that more than 3 million people do not have access to safe drinking water and nearly 21 million are deprived of improved sanitation.

These alarming figures require policymakers to prioritize water, sanitation and hygiene issues and come up with an integrated approach to make the country’s development efforts sustainable.

The country lags behind in fulfilling even the basic necessities. The problems related to education, health and sanitation make this clear. What is needed, therefore, is massive government intervention, where the MDG programs can play a supportive role in the country’s mainstream development efforts. MDGs by themselves cannot provide any panacea for the nation’s ills.

source: Singh, Ajita (2013),"Nepal and MDGs-Alarming figures", The Himalayan Times,30 May 2013
Singh is a researcher with Center for Research Excellence )

2013-05-01 | EducateNepal

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