December 10, 2008

Millennium Development Summit 2008

On September 25th, the United Nations met in New York City to evaluate progress on the eight Millennium Development Goals. More than two months later, it’s still hard to dig through news about GM’s failures, Obama’s picks, natural disasters, and terrorist attacks to really assess the situation.

The press briefing from the Summit offers critique, but also hope for the future. Norway’s Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg and United Kingdom Prime Minister Gordon Brown have gathered a team and formulated a plan to achieve the three MDGs for Health: reduce child mortality; improve maternal health; and combat HIV/AIDS, malaria, and other diseases. The team also includes World Bank President Robert Zoellick, Director-General of the World Health Organization Margaret Chan, and Bill Gates of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

Thus far progress has been slow and not steady. At the current rate of reduction, the UN’s efforts will see child mortality drop by only one-third instead of two. Decreasing mortality by one-third saves millions of children; failing to reach two-thirds allows millions more to die. Sadly, there has been little change at all in the number of preventable deaths during childbirth. At this point, maternal health is the United Nations’ greatest failure.

But there’s good news. Instances of AIDS infections are declining. So are cases of malaria and measles, mostly due to results-based funding funneled toward vaccination accessibility. The team has recommended a combined increase of $30 billion in funding to save 3 million mothers and 7 million children by the year 2015. Part of this money would go toward the training of health workers and the construction of delivery clinics. The United Kingdom will add over $650 million for health plans in seven developing nations. Countries that had previously not committed any money have now helped to increase overall funding by $8 billion. Furthermore, Bill Gates pledged additional funds toward scientific research in the treatment and vaccination of malaria. Everyone agreed that the global financial crisis should not slow efforts, but teach us how very interconnected we all are, and how vital it is that we cooperate and thrive as a global society.

Perhaps we really are at the dawn of a new day. In 2003 my friends were being sent overseas to fight, university costs were financially crippling me, and personal faith in my political system had all but died. Less than 5 years prior I hadn’t thought myself an idealist for simply believing that human beings can change the world around themselves for the better. Maybe there is a chance that now we are all, in our own way, preparing to make the next great collective jump forward. For now let’s not doubt success or focus on loopholes. It is possible to put a sock in the cynic and take one cue from the United Nations. Nothing will change in our world; nothing will change in our country, our state, our community, or our neighborhood until we realize our own role in progress, and the control we have over the future. I can’t tell anyone exactly what to do, but I promise you that that something can be done.

This blog was written by Allison Tritt, a former high school English teacher, volunteer for Oxfam Japan and blogger with the Literacy ‘n’ Poverty Project. She blogs to foster global awareness and remind others that there is always a way to get involved. Email Allison at with your questions.


Anonymous said...

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Literacy 'n' Poverty Project said...

Thanks for taking the time to read our blog, Sarah. We look forward to providing you with more valuable content and reading your comments in the future.

Happy new year!

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