Monday, September 28, 2009

Mixed results for Cambodian development goals

Mon, 28 Sep 2009
By Jurgen Schmidt

Phnom Penh - Cambodia is seeing mixed results in its progress towards meeting nine Millennium Development Goals by 2015, a UN Development Programme consultant said Monday. Sherif Rushdy told a conference in Phnom Penh that the country is on track to meet targets for three goals - reducing child mortality, combating HIV/AIDS and other diseases, and the Cambodia-specific target of zero civilian casualties from landmines - but will likely miss the goals set in at least three other key areas.

Rushdy said Cambodia has shown "spectacular" performance in reducing mortality of children under five years to the goal of 65 per 1,000 live births. In 1998 the rate was 124 per 1,000 live births, and the latest figure is 83.

Infant mortality figures were also down sharply and ahead of target with the rate of 60 per 1,000 live births. The target for 2105 is 50 per 1,000 live births.

Rushdy warned that three goals likely to be missed are reduction in maternal mortality, the goal of nine years' education for all school-age children, and environmental sustainability.

"Maternal mortality has not changed at all, the situation is one of the worst," he noted, citing a figure of 461 deaths per 100,000 live births against a target of 140.

Rushdy said soaring food prices last year added to the likelihood that Cambodia would miss the maternal mortality goal, because the numbers of women suffering from anaemia and other nutritional deficiencies had not decreased.

Environmental sustainability is also falling short, particularly with respect to forest cover. Cambodia suffered extensive deforestation in the past decade.

Rushdy said 373,000 hectares of forest was lost between 2002 and 2006, and added that increasing dependence on wood for fuel means "the prospect of preserving natural resources is not very good."

He also said Cambodia's target for universal education "way too ambitious." The standard target is universal primary education, but Cambodia is aiming for nine years' schooling for all children.

"[These three goals] are flashing a red light, and the country is unlikely to reach its goals in these areas," he said.

Attaining two of the remaining three goals - eradicating extreme poverty and hunger, and promoting gender equality and empowering women - remains possible provided certain changes are made to the way the goal is being approached.

The UN Millennium Development Goals are a set of typically eight goals that reflect the key development challenges facing countries around the world, and which countries agreed to meet by 2015. Cambodia added a ninth goal of achieving zero casualties from landmines and unexploded ordinance, legacies of its conflict-ridden past.


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