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Health and Environment: Health and the UN's Millennium Development Goals

Source: MSNBC


The year 2000 served as a dual calendar marker, ending the twentieth century and beginning the new millennium. The United Nations Secretary General marked the entry into the new era by offering eight goals for UN member states to achieve. By synthesizing the goals of the major UN Conferences and World Summits of the 1990's, these eight goals are supposed to serve as organizing principles for the UN's agenda in every field. However, the following year, just before the UN General Assembly was scheduled to open its first session of the new millennium, Al-Qaeda terrorists launched an attack against the United States that delayed the opening of the General Assembly Session. The September 11 terrorist aggression against America changed the background against which UN member states would try to achieve the eight Millennium Development Goals, or MDG's. Combating terrorism became the newest initiative of the UN and challenged the optimism inherent in the MDG's which had prevailed the year before.

The Millennium Development Goals are: 1) eradicate extreme poverty and hunger; 2) achieve universal primary education; 3) promote gender equality and empower women; 4) reduce child mortality; 5) improve maternal health; 6) combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases; 7) ensure environmental sustainability; 8)develop a global partnership for development.

Health is the specific subject of three of the MDG's (#s 4, 5, 6). In order to accomplish reductions, by two-thirds, of the mortality rate among children under five years of age (#4), to reduce by three-quarters the maternal mortality ratio (#5), and halt and begin to reverse the spread of HIV/AIDS, malaria and other major diseases (#6), the other five goals will also have to be achieved in proportional measure. Goal #7, on ensuring environmental sustainability, includes reducing by half the number of people without access to safe drinking water. 80% of the 2.1 million people who die annually from diarrhea are children under five years old.

Each MDG has a health component, and according to the World Health Organization's World Health Report 2003, improving human health, "is at the heart of the matter of development." In fact, heart disease is the number one global killer of people over 60. In contrast, for children under five, the major causes of death are: perinatal conditions, lower respiratory infections, diarrhoeal disease and malaria. For men between 15 and 59, HIV/AIDS is the major cause of death according to the most recent WHO annual report. Overall, deaths and disability are caused by noncommunicable diseases and from injury particularly, road accidents.

Funding initiatives to improve health care as well as disease detection compete with military spending to combat terrorism. So far, the number of global deaths caused by terrorism and war remains low. Investing in the health initiatives of the MDG's increases chances for individuals, especially those with no stake in a common future, to lead productive lives and become constructive members of their societies.

Source: World Health Report, 2003, World Health Organization

Source: MSNBC

 

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