Millennium Development Goals - an uneven success

By Emmeline Booth


On Monday, the United Nations released its final report on the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) - the body's flagship plan to eliminate poverty across the globe. While not all the goals were reached in the 15 years, one billion people had been dragged out of poverty, the report argued. UN Secretary-General called it the "most successful anti-poverty movement in history."

But success, or failure, to reach the goals was not spread out evenly across the globe. As the chart below shows, some parts of the world fell far shorter than others.

Distance from achieving Millennium Development Goals (%)

MDGs are represented at 0 percent. -10 percent signifies being 10 percent away from reaching the goal set by the UN from data in 1990, while +10 percent means they beat the target by 10 percent.


Sub-Saharan Africa, already lagging behind the world in terms of quality of life, was far further from meeting the MDGs than other parts of the world. In all six of the categories highlighted above, the region performed worst.

For example, in the extreme poverty category the UN goal was a 50 percent reduction in the percentage of people living on under $1.25 a day. In 1990, Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia had comparable rates (57 and 51 percent respectively), by 2015 it had fallen to just 17 percent in South Asia but remained stubbornly high - at 41 percent - in Sub-Saharan Africa.

In maternal mortality, all parts of the world fell short. According to the report, the maternal mortality ratio of women aged 15-49 has been cut nearly in half since 1990. Yet that is a significant shortfall of 25 percent from the goal. 510 out of 100,000 women in Sub-Saharan Africa are still dying from birthing every year - over twice as much as any other region in the world. 

The Millennium Development goals were designed to tackle eight key goals for the UN - poverty, education, gender equality, child mortality, maternal health, disease, the environment and global partnership. They will be replaced by the 17 Sustainable Development Goals, which were agreed at the Rio+20 conference.