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Brussels, 21 April 2010

The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs): Frequently Asked Questions and examples of EU-funded projects

1) What are the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs)

The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) were set by the United Nations in 2000 in order to eradicate poverty in the world by 2015 and save millions of lives. For the first time in history the leaders of 189 countries agreed on eight concrete goals to achieve the following:

  • Eradicate extreme poverty and hunger

  • Achieve universal primary education

  • Promoting gender equality and empower women

  • Reduce child mortality

  • Improve maternal health

  • Combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases

  • Ensure environmental sustainability

  • Develop a global partnership for development

2) What progress has been made on the MDGs?

  • MDG 1: The overarching MDG goal of halving extreme poverty by 2015 is still within reach on the basis of current projections. Worldwide, extreme poverty decreased, in terms of people affected, from 1.8 billion to 1.4 billion between 1990 and 2005, though there are strong regional disparities.

  • MDG 2: Enrolment in primary education reached 88 per cent in 2007, up from 83 per cent in 2000. Major breakthroughs have been achieved in sub-Saharan Africa, where enrolment increased by 15 percentage points from 2000 to 2007, and Southern Asia, which gained 11 percentage points over the same period.

  • MDG 4: Deaths among children under five have declined steadily worldwide, to 8.8million in 2008, down from 12.6 million in 1990, despite population growth. In 2008, the global under-five mortality rate was 65 deaths per 1 000 live births, down from 93 in 1990.

  • MDG 6: Coverage rates for insecticide-treated bed nets to counter malaria have tripled since 2000. Globally, deaths from measles fell by over 60 % between 2000 and 2005, with striking gains in Africa, where measles deaths decreased by nearly 75 % over the same period — from an estimated 506 000 to 126 000.

  • MDG 7: 87 % of the global population now have improved sources of drinking water compared to 77 % in 19901. Current trends suggest that more than 90 % of the global population will be using improved drinking water sources by 2015.

3) Which areas need to be improved?

With less than five years to the deadline, progress is highly uneven among regions and countries, with Sub-Saharan Africa and countries in situation of fragility particularly lagging behind. The food, fuel and financial crises have resulted in millions of people falling back into poverty, a recession which risk to threaten all the progress made so far. The goals related to child and maternal health and sanitation are the most off track. This implies that millions of human beings are victims to a death that easy could had been avoid. However, political will combined with sufficient financing and innovative policies/approaches can make a difference.

  • MDG 1: In 2009, the number of chronically hungry persons topped the 1 billion mark, while at least another 2 billion are undernourished. South Asia has the highest rates of malnutrition. One third of the world’s 150 million malnourished children live in India.

  • MDG 2: Large gaps still remain in access to education and completion rates, with significant inequalities based on gender, ethnicity, income, language or disabilities. 72 million children of primary school age were not in school in 2007. Seven out of ten such children out of school live in sub-Saharan Africa or South and West Asia.

  • MDG 5: There has been little improvement in maternal mortality since 1990, with still 450 deaths per 100 000 live births in developing regions in 2005. Together, sub-Saharan Africa and Southern Asia account for 85 % of all maternal deaths.

  • MDG 6: Despite the overall decrease in the number of new infections, the total number of people living with HIV worldwide continues to grow (which is partly due to increased survival because of increased coverage with anti-retroviral treatment). The number of people living with HIV globally now stands at 33.4 million. Sub-Saharan Africa remains the worst affected region, accounting for 71 % of all new HIV infections in 2008. In sub-Saharan Africa, women outnumber men 3 to 1 among 15-24 year olds with HIV.

  • MDG 7: Between 1990 and 2006, the proportion of people without improved sanitation decreased by only 8 %2. More than 2.5 billion people remain without improved sanitation, and at the current rate of progress the MDG sanitation target will be missed for over 700 million people. The lowest sanitation coverage is found in sub-Saharan Africa, where only 31 % of the population has improved sanitation, up just 5 % since 1990.

4) What does the EU do to help developing countries reach the MDGs?

MDG 1: Eradicate extreme poverty and hunger

The EU supports the poverty reduction strategies of the developing countries. Agriculture has a central role in its development policy, with a growing support to small farmers. In 2010 the EU will launch a plan to reinforce the food security in the world. The EU helps the southern countries to create employment, reinforce their competitiveness, developing regional markets, all by focusing on a sustainable growth and a social dimension of the globalisation.

Examples of projects:

- Food security and livelihood recovery in Eastern Harrarghe zone of Oromia regional state of Ethiopia

Eastern Harrarghe consists mostly of vulnerable rural populations dealing with degraded land, unreliable rainfall, and a lack of basic services and infrastructure. A series of relief, rehabilitation and development programmes have been implemented.

- EU-Peru Programme for fighting poverty in Metropolitan Lima (PROPOLI)

The project, operating in Lima, aims at contributing to the social and economic integration of lower-income families by designing and managing social programmes in co-operation with the local strategic partners.

MDG 2: Achieve universal primary education

The EU supports universal primary education both as the principal donor to the international initiative "Education for all" but also through its development policy which supports:

  • the education policy in 140 developing countries

  • free and mandatory access to primary education

  • the right to education for girls and the most vulnerable populations

  • improvement of the quality of the education

Examples of projects:

- Providing elementary education in India

The Indian government wants to achieve a universal elementary education of satisfactory quality by 2010. Increasing the number of children attending school, narrowing the gender gap and enhancing the quality of education are central to this project.

- Education Enhancement Programme in Egypt

Low enrolment of girls, low student performance and lack of human and financial resources is a problem for certain regions in Egypt. EU funding to the Egyptian government aims to help reach the goal of universal primary education for all.

MDG 3: Promoting gender equality and empower women

Gender equality is an essential EU value. The EU's action in developing countries within this area aims to:

  • improve girls' access to primary education but also to secondary and higher education

  • support the economic emancipation of women

  • improve their access to the political lives

  • allow them to live in security by fighting against violence towards women

Examples of projects:

- Children at Risk Programme in Egypt

The EU-funded project aims at improving living conditions of disadvantaged children in Egypt by building girl friendly schools, reducing the practice of female genital mutilation and improving the capacity of NGOs working with children.

- Women against rape, Botswana

“Silence is violence”

Women Against Rape provides support to women who are survivors of rape and other forms of violence. Counselling forms the backbone of their activities. They also provide legal support, rehabilitate perpetrators and raise awareness through education.

MDG 4: Reduce child mortality

A child born in a developing country risks 13 times more to not attain its fifth birthday than a child born in an industrialised country. If this MDG was achieved millions of lives would be saved. In this regard, the EU makes big investments to help developing countries consolidate their health systems, develop the universal access to care, to train qualified staff.

Examples of projects:

- Improvement of mother and child care health services in Uzbekistan

In Uzbekistan the EU and UNICEF are saving lives. 13 000 health professionals are being trained in low cost, high impact maternal and childcare techniques. The project budget is € 3.8 million, with € 3.5 million from the EU.

- Reducing the burden of Vaccine Preventable Diseases (VPDs) in Kebbi State, Nigeria

"Immunisation is your child's best body guard"

Since June 2004 the EC has been helping to strengthen routine immunisation of children in Nigeria. The project supports the government in improving the management of vaccination services, creating awareness and building the capacity of health workers.

Press pack:

MDG 5: Improve maternal health

The EU helps developing countries to implement their health policy. The EU provides support to increase the percentage of deliveries assisted by qualified health staff and finances actions on Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights all over the world.

Examples of projects:

- Reproductive Health Initiative for Youth in Asia (RHIYA) – Sri Lanka

'Reproductive Health Initiative for Youth' in Sri Lanka was not merely an information event on the HIV pandemic. Attended by a thousand people, it encouraged responsible sexual/reproductive behaviour and was designed to foster healthy family life.

- Behaviour Change Communication through Radio, Rwanda

Empowering women to improve sexual and reproductive health

In 1999, BBC Great Lakes Service launched a radio soap opera dealing with sexual and reproductive health. It is aimed at raising awareness and discussion among beneficiaries about sensitive issues considered taboo by Rwandan culture.


MDG 6: Combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases

As a global key actor in the fight against HIV/AIDS, malaria and tuberculoses, the EU is the first contributor to the Global Fund to fight these three pandemics. The EU helps the developing countries to improve their capacities. The EU also contributes to the supply of essential medications accessible for all, the construction of clinics and laboratories, the training of the caretakers, access to care, improvement of sanitary education, the participation of the local communities…

Examples of projects:

- Comprehensive HIV/AIDS programme in Banceuy narcotics prison, Indonesia

Indonesia has a low HIV/AIDS prevalence in the general population while 80% of new HIV-infections results from intravenous drug use (IDU). West Java with 22,000 estimated IDUs and a HIV-prevalence between 55%, only has 5,000 official HIV/AIDS cases.

- EU HIV Action Plan for Benghazi (Libya)

Medical support and care for HIV-infected children/adults in Benghazi

In 1998 453 people, mostly children, contracted HIV/AIDS at Benghazi Children's Hospital. 53 have since died. Assuring appropriate medical care for the HIV-infected children and supporting a national AIDS programme are central to this project.

MDG 7: Ensure environmental sustainability

At a global level, the EU is the strongest defender of a sustainable environment. The EU helps the developing countries to better manage and protect their resources by supporting efforts like:

  • preserve their biodiversity, their forests, fishing resources, water, energy..

  • fight against climate change and natural disasters

  • develop their scientific and technological competences

Examples of projects:

- The Gola Rainforest: a new, practical model for achieving sustainable protected areas in post-conflict Sierra Leone

This is the only major active conservation programme underway in Sierra Leone, and, by the end of the project, all necessary elements will be in place for the Gola Forest Reserves to be converted into a national park.

- Indonesia Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade Support Project (FLEGT)

The project supports implementation of the EC FLEGT Action Plan in Indonesia. Overall objective is to promote the role of forests in the sustainable and equitable development of Indonesia. Focus areas are forest law enforcement, governance and trade.

MDG 8: Develop a global partnership for development

The EU is the biggest donor of development aid in the world (56% of all Official Development Aid), far ahead of the USA and Japan. Despite the crisis, the European citizens remain in favour of global solidarity. The EU is also the principal trade partner of most African countries. The EU has completely opened its market for products from less advanced countries. Its trade agreements with the south countries are designed to favour their development.

Examples of projects:

- Support to the implementation of the Arab-Mediterranean Free Trade Agreement

Making Agadir agreement work

With EU's financial and technical support, the project aims at supporting the creation of a free trade area between Egypt, Jordan, Tunisia and Morocco and promoting economic integration within this area and with the European market.

- Facilitating economic reforms in Vietnam

In 2010 Vietnam will have gained middle-income status. However, the country must undergo reforms to protect its new position as many of its systems are still designed for the socio-economic conditions of the 1990s.

1 :

World Health Organisation and United Nations Children’s Fund (2008) Joint Monitoring Programme: Progress on Drinking Water and Sanitation: Special Focus on Sanitation. WHO: Geneva.

2 :

World Health Organisation and United Nations Children’s Fund (2008) Joint Monitoring Programme: Progress on Drinking Water and Sanitation: Special Focus on Sanitation. WHO: Geneva.

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