SA on track to beating clock on UN goals

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

By Communications Minister Faith Muthambi

The clock is ticking; the final stretch in the countdown to the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) next year is in sight. Overall, South Africa has fared well. We have aggressively pursued the goals and even achieved some goals ahead of the cut-off date.

Our commitment has been steadfast from day one as they reflect the country envisioned in the Freedom Charter of 1955.

In 1994, government’s first priority was to meet the basic needs of our people from housing, water, electricity, transport, nutrition, healthcare and social welfare. We laid the foundations for a new society as we began to undo the gross inequalities and skewed delivery of basic services entrenched by apartheid.

South Africa embraced the eight MDGs identified by the United Nations in 2000 as part of a commitment by world leaders in their Millennium Declaration to answer the challenges that bedeviled human development.

The MDGs presented an opportunity to change the course of history and represented the most powerful international commitment to end poverty and secure peace, democracy and human rights.

They are measurable targets specifically designed to address the most pressing development needs of the most vulnerable in our midst.

The goals include:  the eradication of poverty and hunger; achieving universal primary education; promoting gender equality and empowering women.

Others are the reduction of child mortality rates; improving maternal health; combating HIV and Aids, malaria and other diseases; ensuring environmental sustainability and developing a global partnership for development.

Moreover, our Constitution and Bill of Rights commit us to go even further than the MDG targets. The Bill of Rights provides for the right to dignity, equality, shelter, healthcare, sufficient food and water as well as equal education.

South Africa has made remarkable progress in transforming our society into a democratic one and rolling out basic service delivery, especially for communities deliberately excluded by apartheid.

Our advances have allowed us to meet the goal to halve the proportion of the population without sustainable access to safe drinking water, four years before next year’s deadline.

According to the Twenty Year Review 1994-2014 access to a basic level of water increased from 60 percent in 1994 to over 95 percent of households.

In 2008 we halved the proportion of the population without basic sanitation seven years before the deadline. In 2012 there were 83 percent of households with access to a basic level of sanitation up from 50 percent in 1994.

We are on track to achieving universal primary education by next year after overall gender parity in school enrolment with a Gender Parity Index of 1 was achieved in 2012.

There has been progress in entrenching gender equality and women empowerment, with a number of women holding public office and entering fields that have traditionally been earmarked only for men.

Our judiciary has progressed from two women in 1994 to 61 women judges of which 48 are black.  This constitutes about 30 percent of the judiciary.

We achieved the MDG target for malaria and we are on the verge of eliminating it as cases have decreased by 89 percent to 6 846 reported cases in 2012.

Between 2006 and 2011 we recorded the world’s fourth fastest decline in infant mortality rates through our HIV Prevention of Mother-to-Child Transmission Programme, improved immunisation rates to protect children against diarrhoea and pneumonia.

South Africa is one of the few countries that introduced rotavirus and pneumococcus vaccines to reduce deaths due to diarrhoea and pneumonia amongst children.

The Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations has reported South Africa as one of the three African countries that are food secure. We have been earmarked as one of two African countries that have performed well on the MDGs as measured by the total population that is undernourished.

The MDG for sustainable development has been integrated into our policies.  We phased out ozone-depleting substances and are on track to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 2020.

 There are however some MDGs that continue to challenge us, but we are however not alone. The achievements have been uneven, particularly as the global economic downturn has staggered progress in some areas.

As the countdown continues there is more that can be done to achieve all our MDGs if we work together. Government is optimistic that with collaboration of all sectors we can beat the clock.