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World Health Organization

Health and the Millenium Development Goals

World Health Organization, 2005

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Health and the Millenium Development Goals

The eight Millennium Development Goals represent a unique global compact. Derived from the Millennium Declaration, which was signed by 189 countries, the MDGs benefit from international political support. As such, they reflect an unprecedented commitment by the world’s leaders to tackle the most basic forms of injustice and inequality in our world: poverty, illiteracy and ill-health.

The health-related MDGs do not cover all the health issues that matter to poor people and poor countries. But they do serve as markers of the most basic challenges ahead: to stop women dying during pregnancy and child birth; to protect young children from ill-health and death; and to tackle the major communicable diseases, in particular HIV/AIDS. Unless we can deal with these fundamental issues, what hope is there for us to succeed in other, equally important areas of health?

2005 is a critical year, with the MDG target date of 2015 only 10 years away. The evidence so far suggests that while there has been some progress, too many countries - particularly the poorest - are falling behind in health. This is likely to affect other areas, including education, gender equality and poverty reduction. In short, the MDG vision - to create a better and fairer world - will fail unless we can do more to improve the health of poor people.

This report explains some of the reasons for the slow progress, and suggests solutions. It looks beyond the statistics to discuss strategic and policy areas where change is needed and support should be provided. As such, it summarizes WHO’s contribution to debates on the MDGs and to the 2005 World Summit in September.

Much faster progress in health is possible and we have many success stories to draw on. We have the knowledge and tools, and the resources are attainable. What is required is political will and commitment to dramatically scale up our efforts. If we are to succeed, we must start now. Few challenges are more profound, or more urgent.

LEE Jong-wook, Director-General, World Health Organization

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