The United Nations’ “Millennium Development Goals” (MDGs) are a set of eight target areas that many nations believed needed improvement and should be universally available to all world citizens. With access to international funding and global support, many nations have been working towards achieving the following goals: “eradicating extreme poverty and hunger, achieving universal primary education, promoting gender equality and empowering women, reducing child mortality, improving maternal health, combating HIV/AIDS, ensuring environmental sustainability and developing a global partnership for development.”1 In 2000, a declaration was signed by 189 countries that promise to achieve the eight goals by 2015. 1 In the past eleven years, many developing nations have made great strides to achieve their MDGs but may not have 100% success by 2015. Support needs to be present both financially and politically for countries actively trying to achieve the eight MDGs.
The most important Millennium Development Goal for all nations to achieve, in my opinion, is improving maternal health. I believe it would have the most positive side effects and chain reaction. Currently, the specific goals for improving maternal health are: “reduce the maternal mortality ratio by ¾ and achieve universal access to reproductive health.”2 To put the first target in perspective, the maternal mortality risk for the average industrialized nation is 1 in 5600 births.2 In Sub-Saharan Africa, the risk ratio is 1 in 30. That means it is almost 190 times more likely that a woman dies from childbirth in Sub-Saharan Africa than in the United States. Although this risk ratio has been declining in developing nations since the start of the MDGs, greater improvement is still needed. The UN reports that 80% of maternal mortalities could have been prevented if there was access to proper medical equipment and skilled professionals. 2
Improving women’s health has many parts and is necessary for people of all ages. Educating women and girls about their bodies and reproduction is a great start. Preventing or delaying pregnancy at an early age allows girls to prepare themselves before starting a family, both financially and medically. Delaying pregnancy not only improves the health of the young mother and the baby, but it gives girls the opportunity to further their education or begin working. Education is further needed when a woman does get pregnant. She should be informed on how to keep herself and her baby healthy for better chance of survival during and after childbirth. Having access to skilled medical professionals and medications should also help the health of the mother and child. Although contraceptives are now more readily available, the UN reports about 215 million women do not have access to supplies they want. 2
A few improvements such as providing skilled medical staff, reproductive health education, medicine and contraceptives can have a very positive chain reaction. Skilled medical staff and available medical equipment can make pregnancy easier, safer and healthier for women. Educating women may lead to better choices made by individuals and families. The availability of contraceptives will reduce outbreaks of HIV/AIDs and other sexually transmitted diseases. Likewise, once women in these developing nations realize more of their children are surviving childbirth and are healthy, they will begin having fewer children all together; this betters their health and helps reduce the overpopulation in certain global regions. Furthermore, girls attending school longer have more opportunity to earn an income. Education then translates into new skilled labor and more efficient work methods and an increase in income, which reduces both poverty and hunger in a nation. So while all of the UN’s Millennium Development Goals are important and necessary. I believe improving maternal health should be at the top of the priority list.