Millennium Development Goal 1: Eradicating extreme poverty and hunger


By Stephanie Jackson Ali

In a recent post, Foundation Beyond Belief notified members that we would be incorporating the Millennium Development Goals into our charity vetting process. In order to better help our members to get acquainted with these goals, we are rolling out a monthly explanation of the goals, the progress made thus far toward their achievement, and what we, as a global community, have left to achieve in the remaining three years of the plan. Read more about the background of the Millennium Development Goals here. Unless otherwise noted, all information below comes directly from the United Nations.

Millennium Development Goal 1 is to eradicate extreme poverty and hunger. This goal, like many others, was broken down into three separate targets:

1A: Halve, between 1990 and 2015, the proportion of people whose income is less than $1 a day
1B: Achieve full and productive employment and decent work for all, including women and young people
1C: Halve, between 1990 and 2015, the proportion of people who suffer from hunger

The work to achieve this goal was rolled out immediately, as The World Bank, International Monetary Fund, and African Development Bank were provided funds by G8 countries to cancel out debt of Heavily Indebted Poor Countries in order to help them focus on development efforts.

Efforts to reduce poverty and hunger have focused on a wide variety of programs, from investment in local agriculture and job creation to support of other MDGs such as universal education and child and maternal health. The focus of these programs, when done well, is on sustainable change, not direct aid, in order to build a future of success for these countries and their people.

The World Bank has been a very active partner in achieving this goal, including $89 billion in support to low- and middle-income countries from July 2008 to January 2010.

The chart to the left shows the decline in extreme poverty rates worldwide since 1980. While the recent global food and economic crises have considerably slowed progress, with less than two years to go, the world is on track to meet this first goal. In a 25-year period, the poverty rate in East Asia fell from almost 60 percent to less than 20 percent. However, the rate declined only slightly in sub-Saharan Africa in that time, from 58 to 51 percent. If the world continues its current rate, by 2015, roughly 920 million people would still be living under the international poverty line of $1.25/day.

Gains in hunger reduction have been slower. One in four children in the developing world is considered underweight. At the beginning of the MDG period, the number was one in three. Children in rural areas are twice as likely to be underweight as urban dwellers. Overall, the proportion of people suffering from hunger is down since 1990, but the total number of hungry people is up.

There is much progress to be made if we want to reach these goals by 2015, and to ensure we continue to work to improve even after that date. FBB has a strong history of supporting poverty- and hunger-reducing charities, and we will seek to find those working to best continue a sustainable plan for reduction in the future.

For more reading on the subject of global development and poverty eradication, try these books (these selections cover a myriad of belief systems and include representation from those who have worked on the ground and/or those who come from the countries most affected):

  • Dead Aid: Why Aid Is Not Working and How There Is a Better Way for Africa by Dambisa Moyo
  • The End of Poverty: Economic Possibilities for Our Time by Jeffrey Sachs
  • Poor Economics: A Radical Rethinking of the Way to Fight Global Poverty by Abhijit Banerjee and Ester Duflo
  • The Bottom Billion: Why the Poorest Countries Are Failing and What Can Be Done About It by Paul Collier
  • Development as Freedom by Amartya Sen

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