India continues to battle poverty, child and maternal deaths, according to a United Nations report on the Millennium Development Goals that said while several key global targets have been met, more sustained effort is needed to cover disparities by the 2015 deadline.
The 'Millennium Development Goals Report 2014', launched by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Monday, said many global MDG targets on reducing poverty, increasing access to improved drinking water sources, improving the lives of slum dwellers and achieving gender parity in primary schools have already been met.
Many more goals are within reach by their 2015 target date, the report said, adding that if current trends continue, the world will surpass MDG targets on malaria, tuberculosis and access to HIV treatment.
The report is the most up-to-date ‘global scorecard’ on efforts to achieve the eight mostly anti-poverty goals agreed by world leaders at a UN summit in 2000. It, however, said that some MDG targets related to largely preventable problems with available solutions, such as reducing child and maternal mortality and increasing access to sanitation, are slipping away from achievement by 2015, despite major progress.
"We know that achievements have been uneven between goals, among and within regions and countries, and between population groups," Ban said, adding that unless imbalances are addressed through bolder and more focused interventions, some targets will not be met, including in key areas such as childbirth, maternal mortality, universal education, and environmental sustainability.
The overwhelming majority of people living on less than $1.25 a day belong to Southern Asia and sub-Saharan Africa, with one third of the world's 1.2 billion extreme poor living in India alone in 2010. India also had the highest number of under-five deaths in the world in 2012, with 1.4 million children dying before reaching their fifth birthday.
While Southern Asia has made ‘strong and steady’ progress in reducing child deaths by more than halving its under-five mortality rate, yet nearly one in every three deaths still takes place in the region.
Despite progress in all world regions, the maternal mortality ratio in developing regions -- 230 maternal deaths per 1,00,000 live births in 2013 -- was 14 times higher than that of developed regions, which recorded only 16 maternal deaths per 1,00,000 live births in 2013. Highlighting the extreme differences in maternal mortality among countries, the report said that almost one-third of all global maternal deaths are concentrated in the two populous countries -- India and Nigeria.
India has an estimated 50,000 maternal deaths (17 per cent) while Nigeria has an estimated 40,000 maternal deaths (14 per cent). The report further stated that despite a large increase in sanitation coverage, with an additional two billion people gaining access to an improved sanitation facility, it seems unlikely that the MDG target of 75 per cent coverage will be met by 2015.
"In 2012, a billion people still resorted to open defecation, a practice that needs to be brought to an end, as it poses a huge risk to communities that are often poor and vulnerable already," the report added.
"Open defecation is most prevalent in Southern Asia, Oceania and sub-Saharan Africa. The vast majority -- 82 per cent -- of people practicing open defecation now live in middle-income, populous countries, such as India and Nigeria," it said, adding that nearly 60 per cent of the one billion people practicing open defecation live in India.
With the 2015 deadline for achieving the landmark goals less that 550 days away, the report said many of MDGs have been met or are within reach. Among the targets that have been met is that the world has reduced extreme poverty by half.
In 1990, almost half of the population in developing regions lived on less than 1.25 dollars a day. This rate dropped to 22 per cent by 2010, reducing the number of people living in extreme poverty by 700 million.
Efforts in the fight against malaria and tuberculosis have shown results with an estimated 3.3 million deaths from malaria being averted between 2000 and 2012 due to the substantial expansion of malaria interventions.
The intensive efforts to fight tuberculosis have saved an estimated 22 million lives worldwide since 1995.
"If the trends continue, the world will reach the MDG targets on malaria and tuberculosis," it said. Access to an improved drinking water source became a reality for 2.3 billion people and the target of halving the proportion of people without access to an improved drinking water source was achieved in 2010, five years ahead of schedule.
In 2012, 89 per cent of the world's population had access to an improved source, up from 76 per cent in 1990. Hunger also continues to decline, but immediate additional efforts are needed to reach the MDG target, the report said.
The proportion of undernourished people in developing regions decreased from 24 per cent in 1990-1992 to 14 per cent in 2011-2013. However, progress has slowed down in the past decade.
"Meeting the target of halving the percentage of people suffering from hunger by 2015 will require immediate additional effort, especially in countries which have made little headway, the report added. Launching the final push towards the United Nations targets, Ban appealed to member states that the global post-2015 objective must be to "leave no one behind".
Ban said the world is "at a historic juncture, with several milestones before us." Citing gains made in the fight against malaria and tuberculosis and access to HIV treatment, Ban underscored that the report makes clear "the MDGs have helped unite, inspire and transform...and the combined action of Governments, the international community civil society and the private sector can make a difference."
"Our efforts to achieve the MDGs are critical to building a solid foundation for development beyond 2015. At the same time, we must aim for a strong successor framework to attend to unfinished business and address areas not covered by the eight MDGs," said the UN chief.