More than halfway to the 2015 deadline to achieve the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), there is mixed progress from various countries on efforts made to meet the goals.
Ugandaâ€™s scorecard report shows that the country is on track to meeting its targets on Universal Primary Education and HIV/AIDS, although it may not hit the 2015 target on the other six goals.
The eight Millennium Development Goals which range from halving extreme poverty to halting the spread of HIV/AIDS and increasing access to universal primary education by 2015 are a blue print agreed to by world leaders in 2000.
â€œUganda is on course for universal primary education and HIV/Aids reduction. Although the country is on course with the universal primary education programme, education quality is still poor. Again, much as the country has done reasonably well in fighting HIV/Aids, malaria and other infectious diseases still pose a serious challenge,â€ a 2009 mid term review on Ugandaâ€™s progress on MDGs says.
Uganda has scored relatively well on MDG 2 which is about achieving Universal Primary Education. The target here is to ensure that by 2015, children will be able to complete full course of primary schooling. To achieve this goal, the government of President Museveni introduced free primary education in 1997. At the time of introducing UPE, there were 2.2 million pupils in primary school, but by 2007 the number had risen to 7.5 million, according to the 2007 MDG progress report by the United Nations Development Programme.
This tremendous success is threatened by challenges of quality of education under UPE in the absence of adequate facilities and teaching resources especially in rural areas.
The high dropout and increasing failure rate has also blighted the programme. In the 2008 Primary Leaving Examination results, only 17,021 pupils out of 463,631 passed in division one, an almost 50 percent drop compared to 2007 results which returned 31, 969 first grades out of 404,985.
Statistics also show that the national completion rate fell from 60 per cent in 2004 to 48 per cent in 2006. These are some of the challenges that Uganda has to contend with in its effort to achieve the goal on universal primary education.
Education Minister Namirembe Bitamazire acknowledges these challenges but says her ministry is already addressing them.
The fight against poverty
In its assessment of Ugandaâ€™s progress, the UNDP report shows that the number of Ugandans living below the poverty line has reduced to 31 percent down from 56 percent in 1992.
â€œPrecisely, income-poverty headcount fell from 56 percent in 1992/93 to 34 percent in 1999 and then rose to 38 percent in 2002/03 before declining again to 31 percent in 2005/06.If the current trend in poverty reduction recorded in 2005/06 continues, the prospects for achieving the income-poverty MDG target remain high given the conducive policy environment,â€ the report reads.
The mid-point review report on Ugandaâ€™s efforts towards attaining the MDGs also revealed that the country is on track to ensuring promotion of gender equality and women empowerment by eliminating gender disparity in primary and secondary education levels by 2015. It shows for example that gender enrollment gaps in terms of primary school narrowed tremendously, with the proportion of girls in primary school improving to 49.8 percent in 2006 from 44.2 percent in 1990.
Most of these successes have been attributed to the introduction of UPE and the affirmative action programmes.
But without addressing basic considerations that determine gender relations like womenâ€™s lack of control over resources, the report points out that the pursuit of womenâ€™s empowerment, gender equality, and poverty reduction for women in Uganda might remain elusive.
Combating the spread of HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases has been one of the goals that the country has been able to achieve, according to the report.
President Museveni has been variously praised for his efforts in keeping the HIV/AIDS agenda high on the countryâ€™s top priorities.
However, experts are worried that the stagnation of the HIV/AIDS prevalence at 6.4 percent over the past few years, as well as the rise in new infections threatens to derail this success.
In the fight against malaria, the report shows that Uganda has put in place several strategies to be able to combat incidences of the disease through interventions like providing insecticide-treated mosquito nets.Â Â
There has been a strong positive trend in rural water coverage between 1992 and 2002 though it is still below the desired target of providing safe water within easy reach of 65 per cent of the rural population by 2005 and 100 per cent of the population by 2015.
MDG Goal 7 requires countries to reduce by half the proportion of people without sustainable access to safe drinking water and basic sanitation through improved drinking water sources and sanitation facilities.
The report says that the Uganda National Household Survey 2006 data and information from the Directorate of Water Department (DWD) indicate an increase in water service coverage nationwide from about 20 per cent in 1991 to almost 68 per cent in 2006.
Reducing infant and child mortality still remain big challenges that the country has to grapple with. The infant mortality rate (IMR), which measures child deaths before the age of one, declined to 76 deaths per 1,000 live births in 2007 from 122 deaths per 1,000 live births in 1991. On the other hand, the under-five mortality rate- which measures child deaths before the age of five-declined from 167 to 137 deaths per 1,000 live births during the same period. The majority of infants die before their first birthday.
The major challenge in this area has been limited human resources, funds to ensure appropriate and timely technical support to districts and inadequate monitoring.
Ten years after the targets were set, maternal mortality has remained high. In fact in the last 15 years, there has not been any significant decline in maternal deaths. Only a slight reduction of 435 from 505 deaths per 100,000 live births has been registered, according to results of the 2006 Uganda Demographic Health Survey conducted by the Uganda National Bureau of Statistics (UNBS).
These are the tough challenges the government needs to turn attention to.
In its assessment, the Uganda progress report on achieving MDGs shows the country may not meet its goal of reducing by three quarters, the number of mothers who die during childbirth.
To meet this target, the report says Uganda needs to reduce its mortality rate from 435 to 131 deaths per 100,000 live births by 2015.
The contributing factors to high maternal mortality include severe bleeding, unsafe abortions, high fertility rate among Ugandan women and poor access to quality maternal and neonatal care.
While Uganda has relentlessly pursued the MDGs during the past decade, more effort is needed to ensure that all of them are met.
written by 2013 black friday, November 19, 2013