Dáil Éireann - Volume 657 - 18 June, 2008
Written Answers. - Overseas Development Aid.
Deputy Enda Kenny Deputy Enda Kenny
Deputy Enda Kenny asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if sub-Saharan Africa can meet the millennium development goals in relation to poverty and under nourishment; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23707/08]
Deputy Peter Power Deputy Peter Power
Deputy Peter Power: At the halfway point to the 2015 target date for achieving the Millennium Development Goals, progress in sub-Saharan Africa on the targets relating to poverty and nourishment remains slow. MDG One commits the international community to eradicate extreme poverty and hunger, halving between 1990 and 2015 the percentage of people earning less than $1 a day and suffering from hunger. While the latest report on the MDGs, issued in July 2007, shows progress in these areas, much greater advances will be necessary if the targets are to be met.
The figures show that the percentage of people in sub-Saharan Africa living on less than $1 a day fell from 46.8% in 1990 to 41.1% in 2004, with the majority of this improvement taking place since 2000. In overall terms, per capita income growth in the region between 2000 and 2005 was generally good, giving some grounds for optimism. However the rate at which this improvement is taking place is insufficient at present to meet the target by 2015. Sub-Saharan Africa also has the highest poverty gap ratio of any region, reflecting the depth of poverty as well as its incidence.
 Similarly, while the figures show that sub-Saharan Africa has made some progress in tackling hunger, the rate of improvement recorded is limited. From 1990 to 2005, the proportion of children under-five who are underweight fell from 33% to 29% while the proportion of the population below the minimum level of dietary energy consumption fell from 33% to 31%. Some encouragement can be drawn from the fact that the figures are improving, but at the present rate of progress it is unlikely that sub-Saharan Africa will reach the MDG hunger target by 2015.
These figures are in contrast to the positive trend in poverty reduction elsewhere in the world, especially in China and Asia more generally. As things stand, Africa lags behind Asia on most indicators – a fact attributed to a combination of institutional weakness, civil and international conflict, and funding shortfalls.
This year marks the halfway point between the Millennium Summit and the 2015 target date and provides an opportunity for the international community to take stock of progress to date and to renew our commitment to the MDGs.
A number of important events will take place from the summer onward. Heads of State and Government will meet in New York on 25 September to assess progress on the goals to date and to identify measures to improve the global development effort. This meeting will be preceded by a specific meeting on Africa at which the UN Secretary General’s MDG Africa Steering Group will present its recommendations. This group was set up by the Secretary General last September to examine how Africa’s efforts to meet the Goals could be strengthened and includes high level representatives of the African Union, European Union, African Development Bank, Islamic Development Bank, IMF and World Bank.
Other high level international meetings to be held during the second half of the year will examine the quality, quantity and effectiveness of aid flows. Ireland will participate actively in each of these events.
From a national point of view, poverty eradication and the achievement of the MDGs remain the fundamental objectives of Ireland’s overseas development programme. Irish Aid focuses around 85 percent of its bilateral country assistance on sub-Saharan Africa and will continue to expand its assistance to the region as our aid programme grows.
Irish Aid’s focus on reducing poverty and supporting the provision of basic services to the poorest people is wholly consistent with the MDGs and by delivering on our commitment to reach the 0.7% UN target for development funding by 2012, we are at the forefront of efforts to ensure their implementation.
Dáil Éireann 657 Written Answers. Overseas Development Aid.