WHEN 189 heads of state and government from across the globe gathered at the 2000 United Nations Millennium Summit to sign the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) accord it was like a dream come true for billions of people living in extreme poverty worldwide.
The goals were treated as a matter of urgency and were meant to deliver people, mainly from developing countries, from the “abject and dehumanising conditions of extreme poverty” to which more than a billion people are subjected.
Developing countries, Zimbabwe included, pledged to improve their policies, governance and increase accountability in running governments. The developed nations pledged to chip in with resources for the poor countries to achieve the MDGs.
Multilateral financial institutions, among them the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, regional and continental banks and members of the World Trade Organisation, committed themselves to accountability and vowed to assist in achieving the goals.
The eight specific goals were to commit rich and poor countries to work together to eradicate extreme poverty and hunger, ensure all boys and girls complete primary school, promote gender equality and improve the health of mothers and children.
The other goals set were the reversal of the spread of HIV and Aids, protection of the environment, and creation of a global partnership for development by ensuring rich countries give more and better aid, debt relief and trade opportunities to poorer countries by the year 2015.
Today, eight years down the line after the MDGs were set and seven years before 2015, little seems to have been done to achieve the goals.
The United Nations Millennium Campaign established by former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan in 2002 and the Global Call to Action against Poverty recently said achievement of the MDGs has been much slower in Africa.
Humanitarian agencies, analysts and individuals in Zimbabwe are pessimistic that the country would be able to achieve the MDGs if its political and economic crisis continues.
Once admired as the breadbasket of the region, Zimbabwe has been reduced to a basket case due to a succession of poor harvests, bad agricultural policies and a declining economy characterised by hyperinflation, high unemployment and a rapidly depreciating currency.
The humanitarian agencies said the eradication of extreme poverty and hunger remained a major challenge to Zimbabwe.
According to the June 18 2008 report of the Food and Agriculture Organisation and the World Food Programme, the number of food-insecure persons in rural and urban areas was 2,04 million between July and September 2008.
The organisations postulated that the figure would rise to 3,8 million between October and December, peaking at 5,1 million between January and March 2009.
Many people in the rural areas are now competing with animals for wild fruits so as to survive. Some go for days without food while basic commodities are not affordable.
After Independence, Zimbabwe was applauded for making a break-through after attaining universal primary education.
Universal primary education with net primary school enrolment rates increased from 85% in 1999 to 97% in 2003.
It was one of the few countries in Africa that attained a very high literacy rate (97%) in the 15 to 24 age group in 2003.
Vulnerable children were sent to school under the Basic Education Assistance Module.
However, today a number of children have dropped out of school due to displacements as a result of political violence that took place before the June 27 presidential election run-off.
Others lost their breadwinners and due to economic hardships could not afford the school fees. This was further worsened by the ban of non-governmental organisations (NGOs) by the government on allegations that they were campaigning for the opposition MDC.
Some of these NGOs provided school fess to vulnerable children.
Earlier this month, Unicef said it was seriously concerned by the deterioration of the education system, adding that all stakeholders needed to urgently address the current
crisis to save the once vibrant sector from collapse.
It said only an estimated 40% of the country’s teachers were attending lessons and a third of pupils were reporting for classes.
“Between a two-month teachers strike, limited learning materials, political violence and displacements, Zimbabwe’s children have lost a whole year of schooling,” said Unicef representative Roeland Monasch. “The depletion of teachers in schools, transport and food problems faced by the remaining teachers and lack of resources have left the sector tottering on the brink of collapse.”
Zimbabwe made a stride in achieving the goal of reversing the spread of HIV and Aids. It boasts of a decline in the HIV and Aids prevalence rate from 18,1% to 15,6% over the past four years, continuing the trend that saw the figure falling from 26,5% in 2001 to 18,1% in 2003.
However, it has failed to make available ARVs and other drugs to most infected people. Unscrupulous entrepreneurs have taken advantage of the situation and have flooded the market with fake ARVs.
The country’s health delivery system continues to collapse with doctors and nurses always on strike. Some hospitals go for days without water and vital machinery is not functioning at major government hospitals, while the private sector is charging exorbitant medical fees.
In as far as sanitation is concerned, the Combined Harare Residents Association has labelled the government a failure in this regard.
The Zimbabwe National Water Authority is currently under fire for the cholera outbreak in the country, which the UN said has claimed 120 people since February.
Most residential places in Harare and other cities and towns do not have running water and people resort to unsafe water for consumption. Refuse is uncollected and sewer flows in most high-density suburbs, exposing people to both air and waterborne diseases.
After western countries isolated Zimbabwe, the government adopted the Look East policy to fulfill the global partnerships for development goals to attract much needed investment in agriculture, energy, communication and the textile sectors.
However, this policy was criticised for failing to bring in the much-needed investment.
On the other hand, the government cannot be solely blamed for the slackening of the achievement of the MDGs.
There were other factors, among them sanctions and global warming, that affected the country in achieving the goals.
Recently, UN secretary general Ban Ki Moon said the environmental sustainability goal seemed to be difficult to achieve due to climate change and environmental degradation that threatened the very future of the planet.
He said: “Growing populations and rising wealth place unprecedented stress on the earth’s resources. Malthus is back in vogue. Everything seems suddenly in short supply: energy, clean air and fresh water, all that nourishes us and supports our modern ways of life.”
“For Africa alone, donors have pledged $62 billion a year by 2010. Those we must help have faces: mothers who die needlessly in child birth, infants stunted through life because they do not receive adequate nutrition during their first two years. We promised to help. Now is the time to do so.”
By Wongai ZhangazhaÂ