Fifteen years after the United Nations (UN) set the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) for all countries, Namibia has made great strides to meet the eight anti-poverty targets ahead of the 2015 MDGs deadline, says UN resident coordinator in Namibia, Anita Gbeho.
Gbeho, who is also the UN Development Programme (UNDP) resident representative, was speaking at the launch of the National Dialogue on Wealth Redistribution and Poverty Eradication last week on Friday.
The eight MDGs set specific targets on poverty alleviation, education, gender equality, child and maternal health, environmental stability, HIV/AIDS reduction, and a global partnership for development.
The dialogue is an initiative of the Ministry of Poverty Eradication and Social Welfare. It was attended President Hage Geingob, the Vice-President Dr Nickey Iyambo, the Prime Minister Saara Kuugongwelwa-Amadhila, the First Lady Monica Geingos, various government ministers, the private sector and foreign diplomats accredited to Namibia.
“Progress has been made in the fight against malaria and tuberculosis (TB) with malaria mortality and morbidity reduced by over 90 percent since 2000, and TB cases dropping by 22 percent since 2013,” said Gbeho, who recently replaced Musinga Bandora.
She said efforts by government also managed to reduce new infections of HIV by 50 percent since 2001.
Similarly, she commended the country for being ranked third in the Education for All Development Index. “Progress has been made in primary education enrolment, which currently stands at over 99 percent.”
Furthermore, she said, the number of poor people in Namibia has also been reduced from seven to three out of every 10 people, while 84 percent of the population have access to safe drinking water.
However, she said despite all the progress inequality is still high with the gulf between the rich and the poor wider than ever before. According to her, poverty levels are higher in rural areas than in urban centres.
She said female-headed households, older pensioners and subsistence farmers are disproportionally affected by poverty, adding that in some regions more than 50 percent of the population live below the national poverty line.
“Mobile populations and rapid urbanisation are an exacerbating factor.” Another concern she highlighted is the high rate of unemployment among the youth which, according to her, now stands at 52 percent.
“Hunger and malnutrition remain a serious concern as is the vulnerability of people to drought and other climate-related shocks,” she said.
Meanwhile, next month in New York, heads of state and government will adopt the new development agenda to guide actions over the next 15 years. This agenda, which has the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as its core, calls for global action to eradicate poverty to save the planet.