Hans Rosling argues that the time has come to stop thinking of Sub-Saharan Africa as one place. They are such diverse countries.
If we are going to change our perspective on extreme poverty, maybe we should first get better fidelity on where the problems actually are, rather than massing it all together: ’22 of the world’s poorest countries are found in sub-Sarahan Africa’.
I am as guilty as the next person to have looked through this generalised view.
No need to throw the baby out with the bath-water. I think sub-Saharan Africa still has its utility as describing a geographic region. I guess we should be careful that it does not become as catch-all for all that we here.
Let’s start looking for the good as well as the bad.
Sub-Saharan Africa is a term used to describe the area of the African continent which lies south of the Sahara, or those African countries which are fully or partially located south of the Sahara.
It contrasts with North Africa, which is considered a part of the Arab world.
Among the 64 countries with high child mortality rates (defined as 40 or more deaths per 1,000 live births), only 9 are on track to meet the MDG target on child survival. The highest rates of child mortality continue to be found in sub- Saharan Africa.
Over the last week I have reviewed the first six of the eight Millennium Development Goals (MDG). The news isn’t great- there is a consideration gap to be achieved before 2015, and in some areas it would seem like an impossibility.
This isn’t a case of just providing more aid, or political leaders reinforcing policy, or better management of process. In many cases, the environmental and circumstantial nature of the situation is so diabolical and complex it needs change across generations not years.
Tonight at the City of Sydney talk on the MDG I will be listening to hear what people have to say about this. I am more concerned about what happens in 2016 and beyond. I remain sceptical of the benefit that came from the high-level United Nations (UN) conference on the MDG last month. Why was so much money spent travelling there? Was everyone who attended needed in New York? Why did we hear nothing about a fall-back plan should the likely scenario of failure to meet these goals eventuate?
I dread to think that 2015 will be just like another UN conference held last year in Copenhagen. Dashed hopes and wasted opportunity.
Here is the shortfall noting the significant areas:
- Decline in employment since the global financial crisis.
- Hunger has worsened with the decline in employment.
- One in four children in the ‘developing world’ remain underweight. Twice as likely to be the case in rural areas.
- Hopes dim for universal education by 2015, especially among girls.
- Women continue to fall victim of ‘more vulnerable forms of employment’.
- Child deaths are falling but not quick enough to reach the target.
- Gains in measles at risk to insufficient fund to eradicate the disease.
- In sub-Saharan Africa, diarrhoea, malaria and pneumonia cause more than half of under-five deaths (these are all preventable diseases)
- More than 350,000 women die annually from complications during pregnancy or childbirth, almost all of them — 99 per cent — in developing countries.
- The maternal mortality rate is declining only slowly, even though the vast majority of deaths are avoidable.
- In sub-Saharan Africa, a woman’s maternal mortality risk is 1 in 30, compared to 1 in 5,600 in developed regions.
- Every year, more than 1 million children are left motherless. Children who have lost their mothers are up to 10 times more likely to die prematurely than those who have not.
- Adolescent birth rates remain unacceptably high.
- Poor education about contraception remains at a troubling level.
- HIV remains the leading cause of death among reproductive-age women worldwide.
- An estimated 33.4 million people were living with HIV in 2008, two thirds of them in sub-Saharan Africa.
- Malaria kills a child in the world every 45 seconds. Close to 90 per cent of malaria deaths occur in Africa, where it accounts for a fifth of childhood mortality.
Is this a gap too wide to cross before 2015? Is this the wrong question to ask, and should it be framed in a different light?
I’ll review this tomorrow after attending the City of Sydney talk.
Spotlight onto Millennium Development Goal 2 today:
Ensure that, by 2015, children everywhere, boys and girls alike, will be able to complete a full course of primary schooling
The United Nations provides sobering advice about the likely success of this goal:
- Hope dims for universal education by 2015, even as many poor countries make tremendous strides
- Sub-Saharan Africa and Southern Asia are home to the vast majority of children out of school
- Inequality thwarts progress towards universal education
Some of the broader metrics are presented here:
- Enrolment in primary education in developing regions reached 89 per cent in 2008, up from 83 per cent in 2000
- The current pace of progress is insufficient to meet the target by 2015
- About 69 million school-age children are not in school. Almost half of them (31 million) are in sub-Saharan Africa, and more than a quarter (18 million) are in Southern Asia.
Education is something so many of us just take for granted. It seems so simple. And the reality is that it can be a tough decision if the money available does not extend far enough to educate your children. Abolishing school fees in some of the poorest countries has made a big difference. Significant and important gender issues are being addressed through tackling this goal.