The World Health Organization released its annual Global Health Statistics which provides a global snapshot of how the WHO’s 193 member countries are progressing on the health related Millennium Development Goals. The figures are encouraging.
With five years remaining to the MDG deadline in 2015 there are some striking improvements in some health MDGs: the percentage of underweight children is estimated to have declined from 25% in 1990 to 16% in 2010, HIV infections dropped 16% between 2001 and 2008 and the percentage of the world’s population with access to safe water has increased from 77% to 87%, enough to reach the MDG target.
Nine countries in Africa and 29 outside Africa are on course to meet the MDG target for reducing malaria, but in 2008 an estimated 243 million cases of malaria still caused 863 000 deaths, mostly in children under five years old.
New HIV infections have been reduced globally by 16% between 2001 to 2008. In 2008 2.7 million people were newly infected with HIV; more than 4 million people in low- and middle-income countries were receiving antiretroviral treatment by the end of 2008 but that left more than 5 million people untreated.
Existing cases of tuberculosis (TB) are declining as more people are being successfully treated. TB mortality among HIV-negative people has dropped from 1.7 million in 2001 to 1.4 million in 2008.
Still, progress has been uneven across regions. Africa lags far behind other regions in most indicators. See, for example, this chart on child mortality. (The goal is to reduce by 2/3rd the number of children who die before the age of five, from 93 children of every 1000 dying before age five in 1990 to 31 of every 1000 in 2015.)
The bottom line is, progress is possible. But we still have a ways to go.