22 October 2009
HoniaraBack in the year 2000, Solomon Islands and a host of other countries vowed to do something clear and precise about addressing poverty and human development. What was nice about this worldwide commitment, however, was the time frame which all nations promised to keep. By the year 2015, they said, 'We nations which have signed up to the Millennium Development Goals (MDG) promise, after a 15 year period, to be judged how close we have come to fulfilling them.'
Here we are now today more than half way through the 15 year period! What can Solomons say about its own track record on the MDGs? Unfortunately, not a single Pacific country is on track to achieve these medical, social and economic goals. In our own case, we are on track for only two of the goals. The other six goals are either in the concern basket or we are currently way off track.
First the good news. The nation is certainly pulling its weight by doing something powerful and positive when it comes to reducing infant and child mortality. Infant mortality, for instance, dropped from 121 (per thousand live births) in 1990 to only 37 in 2007 because antenatal care and immunization coverage. That's how the nation is handling the 4th MDGoal!
The MDGoal 5, improving maternal health, is also better than what it was in the 1990 but seems to have slide down a bit recently. In 2007 there was a spike of maternal deaths--220--which is high but better than what is found in PNG and Timor Leste.
On a more sobering note, however, there are three MDGs that raise concern. Universal primary education--MDG 2--is not keeping pace. The enrolment ratio in primary school, for instance, has jumped "from 39% in 1990 to 56% in 2007 to 92% in 2007 and 94% in 2008" yet the school drop out rate remains a concern. It's vital to keep kids in school right up through Form 3 and not allow them to opt out of the education system at too early an age. Solomons is, fortunately, doing better in this area than PNG, Samoa, Tonga, Marshall Islands, Palau and Timor Leste.
The country's medical department is to be congratulated for its fight against HIV, tuberculosis, malaria and other diseases. Our malaria rate has fallen from 199 cases per thousand people in 2003 to only 82 cases per thousand in 2008. This is progress! Yet, malaria remains a serious disease and with an incidence amongst the highest in the world outside of Africa.
Absolute poverty such as hunger and destitution is rare in this country. But poor government response to MDG 1--Reducing Poverty and Hunger--remains a major concern for our major donors. And things will not become easier in the future. Our population growth of at least 2.7% means that reducing poverty and hunger will become more and more difficult in the years ahead.
The harshest reality facing our nation, however, is our inability to do something about MDGoal 3--To Promote gender equality and empower women. National elections are scheduled for mid-2010, our women are trying once again to gain a foothold in Parliament but in so many ways the country doesn't seem ready for them. A movement a few months ago to allow women a few reserved seats went no where. The nation remains convinced that it can thrive in the 21st century when only half its population is officially recognized, appreciated and able to participate.
The MDGoal 7, however, might take care of itself because our once important forest coverage will have already been completely harvested. We then will have few or no trees to fell. Our destructive ways with our forests are a fair sign of how poorly we will treat the rest of our vital environment--water, soil, land, etc.
Hence, the Solomons gets a fair report card on two of the MDGs. It raises worries about three other MDGs and receives a failing grade on the two last MDGs. We have but six years left--2015--to turn our national report card around for the better health, prosperity and yes, peace for the whole nation.