Thailand and the Millennium Development Goals

A new report from UNESCAP entitled A Future within Reach 2008 about progress towards the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) in the Asia-Pacific Region has been published. Since documentation is better in Thailand and China, these are used as the benchmarking countries for the other 26 countries considered.

Best progress has been made towards economic growth and poverty eradication and Thailand has been at the forefront of this improvement (as I wrote recently, this was not accompanied by reduction in income inequality because of the 1997 financial crisis, principally). However, much less progress has been made with malnourishment and with child health. The report shows that 21.0% of the Thai population overall remains undernourished (using 2004 figures) and 17.6% of children under 5 are underweight. These figures are inter-related of course and undernourishment for children leads to poor health, poor educational outcomes and so forth as adults. The best way to improve social and economic development in Thailand as a whole, therefore, is to promote the incomes of rural people and the poor wherever they might be found.

For the region as a whole, the main problems are:

*                               child mortality: Of the 47 countries for which data are available, 15 are offtrack and several have regressed.

*                               maternal mortality – Some 250,000 women in the region die each year during childbirth or from pregnancy-related complications.

*                               climate change and environmental sustainability: Of 48 countries for which data are available, 30 are off-track for meeting the 2015 emissions target.

*                               water and sanitation – Eight out of 38 countries investigated are off-track for providing their rural populations with access to safe water, and 17 out of 32 countries are off-track for providing rural areas with access to basic sanitation

*                               hunger and malnutrition – Around 545 million people in Asia and the Pacific are consuming less than the global standard of 2,200 calories per day – constituting 65 per cent of the world’s undernourished.

*                               communicable diseases – Although the prevalence, at 0.3 per cent, is lower than in some other world regions, it is still some way from meeting the MDG goal of halting and reversing the spread of HIV Aids by 2015.

*                               global cooperation: In 2005, only five countries had lived up to the developed country pledge that international aid should constitute at least 0.7 per cent of their gross national income.” (See the accompanying press release from the Asian Development Bank hosted at Eldis).