Pakistan to miss Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) by 2015

In 2000 world leaders came together at United Nations Headquarters in New York to adopt the United Nations Millennium Declaration, committing their nations to a new global partnership to reduce extreme poverty and other time-bound targets - with a deadline of 2015 - that have become known as the Millennium Development Goals. With only five years left until the 2015 target date for achieving the Millennium Development Goals, the UN is convening world leaders at a UN Summit on the MDGs in September 2010 to accelerate progress on the Goals.

The performance of Pakistan in achieving the Millennium Development Goals is rather dismal and it is likely to miss them. Much of the last decade has been under the military rule of General Pervez Musharraf (1999-2008) and has seen growing levels of insecurity and conflict. There have been strong movements for the independence of the judiciary and the freedom of the media. It has been plagued by high corruption and crime rate across the country. Today, a quarter of the 170 million population lives in extreme poverty. It spends less than two percent of the budget on health and education and has appalling rates of illiteracy and maternal and infant mortality. There have been innumerable acts of violence and terrorism and Pakistan has the dubious honor as among the top ten Failed States of the world. Democracy was restored in 2008 but has yet to deliver and this affects the development of Pakistan.

According to the Department for International Development - UK (DFID), Pakistan has steady progress since 2000 but slow progress during the 1990s means that many of the targets will be difficult to reach. These views are also expressed by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) - Pakistan. Let us take a brief look at each goal and the progress towards it:

MDG 1: Eradicate extreme poverty and hunger
There has been a decrease in income but still a quarter of the population lives below the poverty line. The target is 13% by 2015 and the global economic crisis increase in food and fuel prices combined with endemic corruption and mismanagement has inflicted damage on the economy and adversely affected poverty levels. This can be achieved by a high growth rate and increasing employment opportunities which seems rather unlikely.

MDG 2: Achieve universal primary education
The enrolment rates in primary schools have improved to 56% in 2006/07 as compared to 42% in 2001. But the 100% target of universal net primary enrolment by 2015 is very ambitious. The literacy rate was 53% in 2004/05 and the target of 88% by 2015 is also unachievable.

MDG 3: Promote gender equality and empower women
Gender inequality remains high and many indicators of the Gender Parity Index (GPI) may not be met for being unrealistic and insufficient efforts. Another indicator is number of seats held by women in national parliament. This has increased in the National Assembly of Pakistan from 10% in 1990 to 22% in 2008. But this is due to the creation of reserved seats for women selected due to their political affiliations and does not necessarily reflect women empowerment.

MDG 4: Reduce child mortality
Pakistan has the fifth highest number deaths of children under five years in the world. However, these rates have reduced from 130 per 1,000 live births in 1990 to 94 per 1,000 in 2007. The target is to reduce to 77 by 2015 which requires special efforts. Secondly, the infant mortality rate of is to be reduced to 40 by 2015 from current rate of 65 and there seems very little possibility of meeting the target. Third, the proportion of fully immunized children under two years should exceed 90% by 2015. This has barely increased from 75% in 1990 to 77% in 2004 making it slip out of hand and no examination has been undertaken for slow progress. The proportion of children aged less than one year immunized against measles has to increase to more than 90% but this target has not just slipped but declined in recent years. It is a relief to know that the proportion of children suffering from diarrhea has already declined and the target can be achieved. The coverage of Lady Health workers coverage is to be universal by 2015. This has increased to 80% and is on track to be achieved.

MDG 5: Improve maternal health
Pakistan has the sixth highest number of maternal deaths in the world. The maternal mortality rate (MMR) is estimated to be at 500 per 100,000 births. This should be reduced to three-quarters from 1990-2015 but has increased due to three proverbial delays; seeking professional care, logistical as most of the health centers are in urban areas and lack of trained personnel at service centers. However, the proportion of deliveries that take place in a health facility and skilled attendants has increased which is an effective way to reduce maternal mortality but the target will not be met due to the social situation, low literacy and household influence among women, limited rural coverage and use of health facilities for family planning.

MDG 6: Combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases
Pakistan has low incidence of HIV/AIDS below 1% and there are programs by the
government and civil society to prevent it among young people and vulnerable groups. This target is expected to be achieved but this issue is considered taboo there are no exact figures for number of infected people and this can affect the efforts to combat it. There are estimates of 96 thousand infected in the country. Malaria has been a major public health problem threatening millions of people due to prevailing peculiar situation. Despite many efforts to eradicate it and prevented two million cases, Tuberculosis continues to plague the country, with incidence in Pakistan ranking as sixth highest in the world. This can be attributed to the high population growth and crowded living conditions, poor health care facilities and incomplete treatment of patients. The proportion of TB cases detected needs to increase to 85% but is only 40% at present and will require concentrated efforts. Polio cases have fallen from more than 5,000 in 1990 to 118 in 2008 but Pakistan has still not achieved the status of being a polio-free country by the World Health Organization.

MDG 7: Ensure environmental sustainability
The forest cover in Pakistan has to increase to 6% in 2015. According to the World Wide Fund to Nature (WWF) the forests are only 2.5% of the country's land and Pakistan has the highest deforestation rate in Asia. The proportion of safe water has been targeted to rise but this is not well defined and most of the drinking water in Pakistan cannot be classified as safe. In 2006-07, 66% of the population had access to a tap or hand water pump and 58% had access to a flush toilet. This proportion of sanitation should rise to 90% by 2015 and also seems too ambitious. The regularization of Katchi Abadis (slum dwellings) has to increase form 50 in 2001-02 to 95. At present 60 percent of these has been regularized and require accelerated efforts as well.

MDG 8: Develop a global partnership for development
The goal is to foster cooperation at the bilateral and multilateral level for realizing the MDGs. Pakistan’s relationships with its international partners have varied over the past decade. The development assistance has increased and development agencies are strengthening their presence in the country. This goal is important as it would lead to achieving the other goals and requires cooperation from other countries such as provision of free market access, efforts to increase exports and diversion of resources towards social sectors and increase in foreign aid by developed countries. Pakistan has been on the verge on bankruptcy and has to receive bailout from the International Monetary Fund (IMF). In capital-starved countries like Pakistan, foreign aid has been considered as an important source of financing, implementing and completing different development programs. An MDG-based poverty reduction strategy can only succeed with an MDG-based global partnership.

Pakistan has not realized the deadline is
just five years away. It is necessary to accelerate progress and put in extra
efforts to achieve the Millennium Development Goals. In 2015 it will be better if we were congratulated on achieving these goals successfully rather then looking back at our weaknesses and making excuses for our inability to achieve them. Let us reiterate our firm commitment to achieve the Millennium Development Goals.


1. Department for International Development (DFID UK) – Pakistan
2. United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) – Pakistan

3. Pakistan Millennium Development Goals Report 2005 – UNDP Publications
4. Pakistan has highest annual deforestation rate in Asia – DAWN News

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