Millennium Development Goals (MDGs)
- Globally, the number of deaths of children under five years of age fell from 12 million in 1990 to 6.9 million in 2011.
- In developing countries, the percentage of underweight children under five years old dropped from 28% in 1990 to 17% in 2011.
- While the proportion of births attended by a skilled health worker has increased globally, fewer than 50% of births are attended in the WHO African Region.
- Globally, new HIV infections declined by 24% between 2001 and 2011.
- Existing cases of tuberculosis are declining, along with deaths among HIV-negative tuberculosis cases.
- The world has met the United Nations Millennium Development Goals target on access to safe drinking-water but more needs to be done to achieve the sanitation target.
The United Nations Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) are eight goals that UN Member States have agreed to try to achieve by the year 2015.
The United Nations Millennium Declaration, signed in September 2000, commits world leaders to combat poverty, hunger, disease, illiteracy, environmental degradation, and discrimination against women. The MDGs are derived from this Declaration. Each MDG has targets set for 2015 and indicators to monitor progress from 1990 levels. Several of these relate directly to health.
Progress report on the health-related MDGs1
While some countries have made impressive gains in achieving health-related targets, others are falling behind. Often the countries making the least progress are those affected by high levels of HIV/AIDS, economic hardship or conflict.
Millennium Development Goal 1: eradicate extreme poverty and hunger
Target 1.C. Halve, between 1990 and 2015, the proportion of people who suffer from hunger
Malnutrition is the underlying cause of death in an estimated 35% of all deaths among children under five years of age. The proportion of underweight children in developing countries has declined from 28% to 17% between 1990 and 2011. This rate of progress is close to the rate required to meet the MDG target, however improvements have been unevenly distributed between and within different regions.
Millennium Development Goal 4: reduce child mortality
Target 4.A. Reduce by two-thirds, between 1990 and 2015, the under-five mortality rate
Globally, significant progress has been made in reducing mortality in children under five years of age. In 2011, 6.9 million children under five died, compared with 12 million in 1990. Between 1990 and 2011, under-five mortality declined by 41%, from an estimated rate of 87 deaths per 1000 live births to 51. The global rate of decline has also accelerated in recent years – from 1.8% per annum during 1990–2000 to 3.2% during 2000–2011. Despite this improvement, the world is unlikely to achieve the MDG target of a two-thirds reduction in 1990 mortality levels by the year 2015.
In 2011, global measles immunization coverage was 84% among children aged 12–23 months. More countries are now achieving high levels of immunization coverage; in 2011, 64% of Member States reached at least 90% coverage. Between 2000 and 2010, the estimated number of measles deaths decreased by 74%, accounting for about one fifth of the overall decline in child mortality.
Millennium Development Goal 5: improve maternal health
Target 5.A. Reduce by three quarters, between 1990 and 2015, the maternal mortality ratio
Target 5.B. Achieve, by 2015, universal access to reproductive health
Despite a significant reduction in the number of maternal deaths – from an estimated 543 000 in 1990 to 287 000 in 2010 – the rate of decline is just over half that needed to achieve the MDG target of a three quarters reduction in the mortality ratio between 1990 and 2015.
To reduce the number of maternal deaths, women need access to good-quality reproductive health care and effective interventions. In 2008, 63% of women aged 15–49 years who were married or in a consensual union were using some form of contraception, while 11% wanted to stop or postpone childbearing but were not using contraception.
The proportion of women receiving antenatal care at least once during pregnancy was about 81% for the period 2005–2011, but for the recommended minimum of four visits or more the corresponding figure drops to around 55%.
The proportion of births attended by skilled personnel – crucial for reducing perinatal, neonatal and maternal deaths – is above 90% in three of the six WHO regions. However, increased coverage is needed in certain regions, such as the WHO African Region where the figure remains less than 50%.
Millennium Development Goal 6: combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases
Target 6A. Have halted by 2015 and begun to reverse the spread of HIV/AIDS
Target 6B. Achieve, by 2010, universal access to treatment for HIV/AIDS for all those who need it.
In 2011, an estimated 2.5 million people were newly infected with HIV – 24% less than the 3.1 million people newly infected in 2001. Sub-Saharan Africa accounted for 70% of all the people who acquired HIV infection globally. There were an estimated 34 million people living with HIV in 2011, an increase from previous years. As access to antiretroviral therapy in low- and middle-income countries improves (a little over 8 million people in low- and middle-income countries received treatment in 2011), the population living with HIV will continue to grow since fewer people are dying from AIDS-related causes.
Target 6C. Have halted by 2015 and begun to reverse the incidence of malaria and other major diseases
About half the world’s population is at risk of malaria, and an estimated 216 million cases in 2010 led to approximately 655 000 deaths – 86% of these in children under the age of five. In a total of eight countries and one territory in the WHO African Region there was a more than 50% reduction in either confirmed malaria cases or malaria admissions and deaths.
The coverage of interventions such as the distribution of insecticide-treated nets and indoor residual spraying has greatly increased, and will need to be sustained in order to prevent the resurgence of disease and deaths caused by malaria.
The annual global number of new cases of tuberculosis has been slowly falling since 2006 and fell 2.2% between 2010 and 2011. In 2011, there were an estimated 8.7 million new cases, of which about 13% involved people living with HIV. Mortality due to tuberculosis has fallen 41% since 1990 and is trending to globally reach a 50% reduction by 2015. Incidence rates are also falling in all WHO’s six regions. Globally, treatment success rates have been sustained at high levels, at or above the target of 85%, for the past four years.
Neglected tropical diseases affect more than a billion people worldwide. With the exception of dengue and leishmaniasis, these diseases rarely cause outbreaks, and thrive in the poorest, most marginalized communities, causing severe pain, permanent disability and death.
Through a coordinated and integrated approach since 2007, WHO has demonstrated that control, elimination and even eradication of these diseases is feasible. With fewer than 1058 cases of dracunculiasis reported in 2011, the disease is on the verge of eradication without the use of any medication or vaccine.
Millennium Development Goal 7: ensure environmental sustainability
Target 7C: By 2015, halve the proportion of people without sustainable access to safe drinking water and basic sanitation
The world has now met the MDG target relating to access to safe drinking-water. In 2010, 89% of the population used an improved source of drinking-water compared with 76% in 1990. Progress has however been uneven in different regions.
With regard to basic sanitation, current rates of progress are too slow for the MDG target to be met globally. In 2010, 2500 million people did not have access to improved sanitation facilities, with 72% of these people living in rural areas. The number of people living in urban areas without access to improved sanitation is increasing because of rapid growth in the size of urban populations.
Millennium Development Goal 8: develop a global partnership for development
Target 8E. In cooperation with pharmaceutical companies, provide access to affordable essential medicines in developing countries
Many people continue to face a scarcity of medicines in the public sector, forcing them to the private sector where prices can be substantially higher. Surveys undertaken from 2007-2011 show the average availability of selected generic medicines in low- and middle-income countries was only 51.8% in the public sector. Patient prices of lowest priced generics in the private sector averaged 5 times international reference prices, ranging up to about 14 times higher in some countries. Even the lowest-priced generics can put common treatments beyond the reach of low-income households in developing countries. The greatest price is paid by patients suffering chronic diseases. Effective treatments for the majority of the global chronic disease burden exist, yet universal access remains out-of-reach.
WHO works with partners to support national efforts to achieve the health-related MDGs. WHO’s activities include:
- setting prevention and treatment guidelines and other global norms and standards;
- providing technical support to countries to implement guidelines;
- analysing social and economic factors and highlighting the broader risks and opportunities for health.
WHO assists national authorities as they develop health policies and plans, and helps governments work with development partners to align external assistance with domestic priorities. WHO also collects and disseminates data on health so countries can plan health spending and track progress.
1 Note: all statistics are estimates.