In 2000 members of the United Nations and the world’s leading developmental organizations adopted 8 development objectives, the realization of which was considered essential for improved life for all humanity. These objectives are collectively referred to as the Millennium Development Goals (or MDGs). The objectives cover a broad range of human development: Goal 1) the eradicating of extreme poverty and hunger; Goal 2) achieving universal primary education; Goal 3) promoting gender equality and empowering women; Goal 4) reducing child mortality; Goal 5) improving maternal health; Goal 6) combating HIV, malaria and other infections; Goal 7), ensuring environmental sustainability; and Goal 8) forming global partnerships for development. The signatories agreed to achieve the goals by the year 2015. Each of the Millennium development goals is made up of several specific targets. Nonetheless, good nutrition is critical to the achievement of many of these goals – especially goals 1, 4, 5 and 6.
A specific target associated with the achievement of the first MDG is to reduce the number of individuals going hungry (under-nutrition) by half between 1990 and 2015. Achievement of this specific target should favourably impact on MDGs 2, 4, 5 and 6. Threats to achieving this target included the increase in prices of raw materials, changes in diet due to urbanization, use of land for the production of biofuels instead of food, use of agricultural subsidies in the developed countries and non-availability of productive employment.
So where are we now?
According to the MDG Report of 2013, the proportion of people living in extreme poverty has been halved at the global level, indicating that the world achieved the poverty reduction target five years ahead of schedule. In developing regions, the proportion of people living on less than $1.25 a day fell from 47% in 1990 to 22% in 2010; and about 700 million fewer people lived in conditions of extreme poverty in 2010 than in 1990. As a consequence, the proportion of undernourished people in developing regions decreased from 23.2% in 1990–1992 to 14.9% in 2010–2012. Thus the target of halving the percentage of people suffering from hunger by 2015 appears to be within reach. Still, it is a matter of continuing concern that one in eight people globally are still hungry; one in six children <5 years are stunted and 7% of all children <5 years are overweight.
Progress towards the achievement of MDG1 may be attributed to a number of successes, including: access to micro-finance, programs for improved food-processing and production and emergence of more resistant and more nourishing food species.
Microfinance helped people of low income obtain financing of projects, allowing them to pull themselves above the poverty line. Examples microfinance institutions are the Grameen Bank of Bangladesh, the International ACCION in Latin America, and the Self-Employed Women's Bank association (SEWA) of India.
Certain countries, such as Malawi, increased their importation of fertilizer which led to excess production of essential foods such as corn. The discovery and growth of a new rice variety NERICA (New Rice for Africa) increased production by 200% - thereby improving food security in the countries which adopted it such Ivory Coast, Democratic Republic of Congo, Guinea, Kenya, Mali, Nigeria, Republic of Congo, Togo and Uganda. Lastly, collaborative and multisectorial initiatives have led to the improvement and production of food suitable for children through micro-nutrient fortification and transportation of the food to regions in crisis such as Haiti, Iran, Iraq, Liberia and Sudan.
The MDGs have served to advance the human development agenda by galvanizing and focusing world attention on eight key development objectives over the past two decades. Nonetheless, while a lot of progress has been made, a lot still needs to be done if hunger and malnutrition are to be eradicated. The MDG Report 2013 provides a clear indication of what progress has been made and what areas need greater focus as we move towards 2015 and beyond.