UN Millennium Development Goal 4: Reduction of Child Mortality

UN Millennium Declaration:

“By the year 2015, we will have reduced under-five child mortality by two-thirds”.

Facts:

– Child mortality is decreasing

– Still, more than 20.000 children under the age of five die every day 

– Common causes for death: pneumonia, diarrhoea, malaria

– Child mortality is high in 67 countries, of which only 10 can, with the current pace of change, achieve the goal set for 2015. 

– Child mortality is at its highest in sub-Saharan Africa. 

What affects child mortality: 

– Sufficient and healthy nutrition

– Access to clean water

– Hygiene

– Vaccinations and access to healthcare

– Lack of education for girls and women

(UNA of Finland. Printed material. 2014). 

In Finland, child mortality today is one of the lowest in the world, thanks to national vaccination (campaigns). In the beginning of the 20th century, every second child born in Helsinki died before the age of five. In the late 1930´s almost every 10th born child in Finland died under the age of one. 40 % of these children died of birth-related injuries, development misplacements or innate weakness. Today, in Finland, only a few per mille children under the age of one die, most commonly due to inborn deformities. (UNA of Finland. 2014; Statistics Finland. Quoted 8.5.2014).

UNICEF, United Nations Children´s Fund, is the world´s most influential organization supporting children (under the age of 18) in need. Founded in 1946, after the 2nd world war, UNICEF focuses on helping children. A year after its foundation, the organization launched its first vaccination campaign. At that time, Finland was among the countries receiving aid from the UNICEF. In the year of the Helsinki Olympics, 1952, UNICEF began its battle against malaria, and in 1965 UNICEF was awarded the Nobel Peace Price. In 1988, UNICEF is working on launching a worldwide society working on abolishing polio. Once again, in 1998, UNICEF rises up to continue the battle against malaria. In 2006, UNICEF is one of the most important emergency aid givers, despite of the fact that still 80 % of the fund´s budget can be used to long-term development work.

(UNICEF Finland. Quoted 8.5.2014).

To fully understand the universal rights of children (everyone under the age of 18), please visit:

UNITED NATIONS Human Rights => Convention on the Rights of the Child

Since we cannot assume that children under the age of 18 are (fully) aware of their rights as children, especially if living in conditions where they may not even have access to education, it is necessary for adults to protect the rights of children.

The world has long ago made a promise to do everything to protect and to promote the rights of children, their survival, learning and growth, and listening to children. Despite of much progress made, there are still problems all over the world concerning the rights of children, and in some regions the situation may even have gotten worse. 2014 has been declared as a year of innovation at UNICEF, whereby the fund activates change-makers everywhere to rethink and drive improved results. (UNICEF. Quoted 8.5.2014).

In addition to the many local offices of UNICEF around the world, there are other independent organizations working to improve the life of children worldwide. These include Plan, World Vision, Save the Children and many others.

 

UN Millenium Development Goals 2000: II. Achievement of Universal Primary Education

“We will ensure that, by 2015, children everywhere, boys and girls alike, will be able to complete a full course of primary schooling.” (UN Millennium Declaration)

One third of the total world population are children. In 2010, 90 % of all children in development countries were attending primary school. In 2011, the amount of children of primary school age out of school had dropped to 57 million from 102 million. Thus, the number of children not attending primary school is still high.

Gender gaps are narrowing, however, girls still drop out of school on the average after four years, for different reasons. More than half of all children out of school live in sub-Saharan Africa. Worldwide, the number of illiterate young people between the age 15-24 is 123 million (61 % are girls). More than 250 million children between 4-15 years of age are forced to work. 50 % of these children work full-time. (UNA of Finland. Printed material. 2014; United Nations Millennium Development Goals. UN. Quoted 29.4.2014).

Despite of the huge improvements in this target, the goal cannot be reached by 2015 with the current pace of change.

One of the main challenges in many less developed countries is the lack of professional teachers, educational facilities, and equipment. According to UNESCO´s research, the shortage of teachers is highest in sub-Saharan Africa and in certain Arab States.

The shortage of primary teachers is reality everywhere on our globe, but critical only in sub-Saharan Africa, where 1/3 of all countries suffer from teacher shortages. (UNA of Finland. Printed material. 2011; UNESCO Institute for Statistics. Global Teacher Shortage. Quoted 29.4.2014.)

There are several reasons behind high poverty levels in Africa, including the cost of schooling, non-affordable for poor families, who also look at the lost value of their child´s work at home. Most often girls are the one´s who need to stay at home.

In order to understand the amount of work needed to develop the economies in sub-Saharan Africa:

50 % of Africa is rural with no access to electricity. The continent currently generates less than 0.6 % of global market share. Hence, many countries are affected by power shortages. At the time being, some Asian countries are actively driving power projects across the African continent. E.g. China is training tens of thousands of technicians in the use of solar energy, which is part of the China-Africa science and technology cooperation agreement (2003). Funded by the AfDB and the EU-Africa Infrastructure Trust Fund, NEPAD is developing an integrated, continent-wide energy strategy, with a focus on:

– Sustainability

– Involvement of cross-border dimension and/or regional impact

– Involvement of both public and private capital

– Contribution to poverty alleviation and economic development

– Involvement of at least one country in sub-Saharan Africa

The lack of infrastructure in developing countries is one of the most significant reasons slowing down economic growth and achievement of the UN Millennium Development Goals. Furthermore, infrastructure investments contributed to more than half of Africa´s improved growth performance between the years 1990 and 2005. Hence, increased investment is essential to economic growth and in tackling poverty. The ROI in infrastructure can be significant. (Wikipedia. Sub-Saharan Africa. Quoted 29.4.2014).

Other factors slowing down economic development include malaria and other major diseases. As an example, the influence of malaria alone on economic growth has been estimated to be at around 1.3 % on a yearly average, caused by illness including costs of treatment and prevention measures. According to statistical research undertaken by the World Bank, GDP in sub-Sahara would have been 32 % higher in 2003 compared to the situation in 1960, had malaria been eradicated.

Sub-Saharan African countries are also home to the highest fertility rates worldwide, with a current growth rate of 2.3 %, predicted by the UN to rise up to 1.5 billion in 2050. More than 40 % of total population is under the age of 15 (except South Africa), and the region has serious overpopulation problems. Child mortality, mainly due to malaria infection, is common: 15 % of all children die before the age of five (situation in 2007).

40 % of African scientists live in OECD countries, mainly in Europe, the USA and Canada. Despite of the so-called African “brain drain”, enrolments in sub-Saharan African universities tripled between 1991 and 2005, with an annual expansion rate of 8.7 %, being one of the highest in the world. Sub-Saharan Africans are commonly the most educated immigrant group in many OECD countries. The expenditure on science and technology in sub-Saharan African countries accounted for an average of 0.3 % of their GDP in 2007, an increase of 50 % compared to the situation in 2002.

In short, following problems need to be tackled in order to improve general conditions for primary education in sub-Saharan Africa:

– Major improvements in infrastructure

– Eradication/minimization of major diseases and thus reducing child mortality

– Building capacity for (primary school) teaching (educating/finding enough teachers)

– Minimizing price of education (free of charge?)

In a developmental process, local conditions must be taken into consideration, and the usage of local resources should be maximized. Bench-marking from countries with successful educational models is a way of improving local conditions.

Finland created and built a strong, productive educational system in only a few decades. Climbing rapidly to the top of international rankings, such as PISA (Program for International Student Assessments), Finland is one of the leading countries in the world in terms of education. The current education system in Finland is modern, publicly financed, accessible and free of charge (including free school meals!) to all national children/students.

In Finland, more than 99 % of students complete compulsory basic education, and an average of 90 % finish upper secondary school. 2/3 of graduates enroll in universities or polytechnics. 98 % of educational costs at all levels is covered by government (tax payments). The success of the Finnish educational system is a result of reforms undertaken in the 1980s. Investments in teacher education have been intense: teachers are highly educated and trained.

The core principles of the Finnish educational system include:

– Resources for all, and those who need them most

– High standards and supports for specific needs

– Highly qualified teachers

– Evaluation of education

– Balancing decentralization and centralization

(Laukkanen. 2008, p. 319)

In the past decades, Finland has moved into a more localized system with lean national standards. Implementation takes place through equitable funding and extensive preparation for all teachers. The development has been grounded on equal opportunities for all, equitable distribution of resources, early interventions, and building trust.

Finnish schools are generally small in size (including class sizes), and well equipped. School meals are free of charge, as well as free health care, transportation, learning materials, and counseling.

The main purpose of assessing students, according to the Finnish National Board of Education, is to

guide and encourage students’ own reflection and self-assessment. Inquiry is a major focus of learning in Finland. Active learning skills are cultivated through posing open-ended questions and helping students in addressing them.

(Finnish National Board of Education. Quoted 5.5.2014).

 

UN Millennium Development Goals 2000: I. Eradication of extreme hunger and poverty

Previously I wrote general facts about the UN as the world ́s most important co-operational organization. Now, and in my upcoming posts, I will focus on the current main strategic goals of the UN.

The first UN Millennium Development Goal is the eradication of extreme hunger and poverty. The UN, in cooperation with nations worldwide, has already managed to reach this goal.

However, the work against hunger and poverty still continues:

– In the past decades, remarkable progress has been made in decreasing poverty, especially in East Asia.

– Still, about 1,4 billion people worldwide live in extreme poverty => with under 1 € (1,25 USD) per day. Some 1 billion people suffer from hunger. Every day.

– Most of the people living in hunger and poverty are children and youth.

– 70 % of people in extreme poverty live in rural areas.

– Global food prices doubled in 2006-2008. Although prices have gone down afterwards, they are still on a higher level than before the food crisis. High food prices exacerbates the situation of the poor.

– Decreasing/removing poverty obliges wealthy and growing/emerging economies to act more selflessly, e.g. through equalizing the rules of world trade. Developing countries, on the other hand, have to commit to good governance, the eradication of corruption, and respecting human rights.

(Source: UNA of Finland booklet. 2011).

Furthermore, the differences between different countries, regions, rural and urban areas vary largely. Still, every fifth person worldwide suffers from extreme poverty, and each 3,5 seconds one person dies from hunger. Imagine that. Sad numbers, despite the progress that has been made: worldwide, 700 million people less live in extreme poverty, in comparison with the situation in 1990. In numbers, the amount of people living in extreme poverty went down from 2 billion to 1,4 billion between 1990-2008. And the percentage of the poor decreased from 47 % to 24 % during the same period of time.

Still, every 8th person on our planet goes to bed hungry. The number of undernourished worldwide is about 842 million people. Every 6th child worldwide is undernourished, of whom every 4th suffer from severe health and mental developmental disorders. (UNA of Finland. Printed Material. 2014).

How can individuals and states be helpful in removing worldwide hunger and poverty? Very often us who do not face these problems directly in our daily lives forget about, or at least neglect, these severe problems that more than a billion people worldwide have to face in their daily lives. Many of whom are children. Do we have tunnel vision? Are we blind to face reality?

I remember a hot Summer evening, walking back to my accommodation in the town of Siem Reap in Cambodia. A small local boy ran after me, begging for money, claiming that he needed one dollar so that he could buy milk for his little sister. He continued following me, reaching out his hand so that I would give him the money he asked for.

Actually, most part of the journey was the same. Everywhere I went, people were begging for money. I didn’t count, but afterwards I thought I should have calculated how many beggars went by during my stay in Cambodia. Some I gave money, but had I given every beggar what they asked for, I would have run out of money in no time. Realizing that, and seeing the behavior of other tourists, I sometimes felt heartless. I was not able to help them all, at least not in the way they wanted me to.

Yet, in some way I helped. I traveled all the way to their country, supporting the growing tourism industry of Cambodia. And now I am sharing some of my experiences through writing, which I hope will influence at least some people.

The beggars and the poor in different countries and regions are not begging for fun. They need help, and support. If they had other means, and knew better ways of improving their lives, they would act differently. But like in Abraham Maslow’s theory of motivation, and hierarchy of needs, we all need to be able to fulfill our very basic needs first: to get enough water and food to survive. As long as this need is neglected, an individual will use whatever possibilities he or she knows to satisfy the very basic needs of life, clean water and enough nourishing food, in order to survive.

Us who have never experienced the lack of clean water or food can not really understand those who suffer every day. If we claimed to really understand what it feels like to be hungry every day, and not having enough to eat, we’d be lying.

So, how can each one of us help in eradicating poverty?

According to macroeconomics, the best way to eradicate poverty is to create employment. Poverty alleviation through sustainable strategic business models, with an emphasis on the word sustainable, is certainly one way of helping the poor. Giving people the opportunity to work themselves out of poverty, with a fair pay. I ́m not going to get into depth with this issue in this post, but we all know that sustainable and ethical business takes care of labor rights, and does not employ children.

There are many other ways of helping the poor: supporting reliable organizations that employ professional staff involved in different kinds of projects aimed at removing poverty and improving the lives of the poor(est).

Micro-lending, direct support, and money sent home by family members working in other countries are also ways of helping. Adopting a child from a poor country (can be a long and difficult process).

There are many ways to help, and help is always possible. “Where there’s a will there’s a way”.

Can you come up with others than those already mentioned in this post?

“It’s impossible, said pride.

It’s risky, said experience.

It’s pointless, said reason.

Give it a try, whispered the heart”.

 

 

What is “The Land of The Lucky Children”?

My journey a couple of years ago to Cambodia, the Land of Peace and Prosperity, was a didactic experience and an eye-opener in many ways. Not only did I learn about the history of the homeland of some of South East Asia ́s most amazing archaeological sites, including the re-known Angkor Wat and Ta Prohm + hundreds of other temples, but also about the contemporary way of life in this amazingly beautiful country, neighborhood by Thailand in the West, Laos in the North, and Vietnam in the East.

Yet, not so many decades ago, the Land of Peace and Prosperity was the centre for a bloody civil war, the Cambodian Genocide. In 1975, orchestrated by Pol Pot, the local communist party the Khmer Rouge, invaded the capital Phnom Penh, driving Cambodian citizens out of their homes. Innocent people were forced to prison camps, where they had to work like slaves with little or almost no food allowed. Every non-communist was under life-threat, especially doctors, teachers, non-communist politicians, and other intellectuals. Many were killed. According to estimations, more than 2 million innocent people lost their lives during the Khmer Rouge regime. Women were commonly raped, and many children, including girls, were forced to become child soldiers. One of these children managed to flee to the United States with her brother, and is today a national spokesperson for the Campaign for a Landmine Free World. Loung Ung has also shared her experiences and her story in two of her books: “First They Killed My Father – A Daughter of Cambodia Remembers”, and “Lucky Child – A Daughter of Cambodia Reunites With The Sister She Left Behind”.

What do wars/civil wars teach us?

Personally I learned at least the following facts:

– Democracy protects human rights

– Bad governance (including a high amount of corruption) can be disastrous in protecting equality and for economic development in a state

– Wars are disastrous for the well-being and general development of a country.

– The aftermath of wars, and genocides, together with a high level of corruption, will influence the economic development of a region for years, even decades.

Cambodia is still today, although developing, one of the poorest countries in the world. Cripples are a common view on the streets – legs or arms or both missing, these people are crawling on the streets trying to find a way to make a living – mainly by begging from tourists. War makes people suffer not only physically, but also mentally. Many parents, unable to work, prefer sending their children to the streets, earning money to the family e.g. through selling souvenirs or books to tourists.

Garment workers are transported on the back ́s of open vans like animals to factories, where they work for long hours with a monthly pay of no more than a maximum of 100-150 USD. Due to the amount of medical workers killed during the civil war, good doctors and hospitals are still missing. Local people who can afford it commonly travel to Ho Chi Minh city in Vietnam in order to get professional medical treatment.

I must admit that I feel uncomfortable buying clothes with a label stating “made in Cambodia,” especially after personally seeing the local conditions.

As a tourist in Cambodia I was considering whether my journey really was of benefit for the people, and if it actually is morally and ethically right to buy clothes produced in Cambodia. What do you think?