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As the deadline for the MDGs hovers, countries have been trying to accelerate progress to meet the set goals. But according to the Global Monitor Report (GMR) 2013 that was released at the end of April, only four of the 21 MDG targets or sub targets have been met worldwide.
The MDGs reflect the basic needs of all citizens, and governments are expected to be aiming to meet them fully in both urban and rural areas. Still resources are scarce, and priorities must be set in most countries. Priority among the different MDG goals is given depending on the local realities of the different countries.
The four MDG targets that have already been met are MDG 1. A, which is halving extreme poverty, two targets, C and D of MDG 7 which are access to safe drinking water and improving the lives of slum dwellers and MDG 3. A, which is gender parity in primary and secondary education. Except for MDG 3. A, which is gender parity in primary and secondary education that is close to being on target, progress on the remaining goals has been limited.
Sub Saharan Africa is said to be lagging behind other regions on most MDGs. However, this region had the furthest to go from the start. Currently, Sub Saharan Africa has achieved more than 40 percent of the progress required by 2015 on the targets for gender parity, child mortality, maternal mortality, and access to safe water.
When it comes to HIV, some 34 million people were living with HIV/AIDS in 2011, and 2.5 million people acquired the disease during the year. Sub Saharan Africa remains the center of the epidemic, but the proportion of adults living with AIDS has begun to fall as the survival rate of those with access to antiretroviral drugs has increased. In Africa, 58 percent of adults with HIV/AIDS are women and among youth aged 15–24, with the prevalence rate among women more than twice that of men.
The 2013 report measures progress toward the attainment of the MDGs through the lens of the changing urban-rural landscape. It states that urbanization has helped reduce poverty through the creation of new income opportunities, and has increased both access to and quality of services. However, the number of people living in urban slums is also rising, and cities often contribute to environmental degradation.
Urbanization, if not well designed and controlled, will automatically lead to the growth of slums, pollution and crime. On the other hand, if planned and handled well, it can pull people out of poverty and advances progress towards the MDGs. Various researches show that in the past two decades, developing countries have urbanized rapidly, with the number of people living in urban settlements rising from about 1.5 billion in 1990 to 3.6 billion in 2011. The report finds that urban poverty rates are significantly lower than rural poverty rates and that urban populations have far better access to basic public services defined by the MDGs, such as access to safe water and sanitation facilities. Still within urban areas, asymmetries in access to these basic public services are large.
For every ten people lifted out of poverty in the East Asia and Pacific region, two were facilitated by the urbanization process alone. Even in Sub Saharan Africa, half of the decline in poverty originated in urban areas and through the urbanization process. The impact of urbanization on service delivery provides even stronger evidence of the importance of the process of urbanization itself. The report states that close to 30 percent of the improvement in the MDG on sanitation results from the process of urbanization.
When it comes to services in rural areas, even though numerous towns emerge in these areas and many poor people migrate to cities to seek better jobs and services, the prevalence of a large majority of the poor in rural areas remains a huge concern.
In order for this to improve, rural areas need focused policies that help raise farm productivity and connect rural villages to input and output markets through roads and the provision of electricity. Another option stated in the report is that the diversification of employment into nonagricultural activities can also contribute significantly to the reduction of rural poverty.
According to the latest Global Monitor Report however, slums are the urban face of poverty and emerge when cities are unable to meet the demand for basic services and to supply the expected jobs.
Statistics show that currently around 1 billion people live in urban slums in developing countries, and their numbers are projected to grow by nearly 500 million between now and 2020. Slums are especially growing the fastest in Sub Saharan Africa, southeastern Asia, and western Asia. Currently, 62 percent of Africa’s urban population lives in slums.
Impermanent, unsafe housing and the lack of basic services in slums force some migrants to maintain split households, separating spouses and leaving children with grandparents in the villages. This introduces instability into the urban transition as there is still dependence on rural areas.
This brings negative implications such as increased burden of child care on aging grandparents and the inability of migrants’ children to access quality primary education and health services. Several studies from Asia and Sub Saharan Africa have documented these kinds of negative effects that arise from split households.
As a key message, the report states that governments should not discriminate between slum dwellers and the rural or urban poor. Slum dwellers should be provided access to basic services just like the poor in rural areas or cities, although the modalities may be different.
The report puts three interrelated dimensions of urban development triangulate to coordinate the approach needed to enable a country to take advantage of its urbanization process
The first one is planning. Charting a course for cities by setting the terms of urbanization, especially policies for using urban land and expanding basic infrastructure and public services is one of the measures that should be taken.
Another approach is connecting, that is making labor, goods and service market accessible to different neighborhoods in the city, not only to other cities, but to outside export markets as well. And then there is financing, finding sources of large capital outlays needed to provide infrastructure and services as cities grow and urbanization picks up speed.
In conclusion, the report states that urbanization hence facilitates several factors that play an important role in attaining the MDGs. It can reduce poverty in two main ways. One, through the benefits of good services; cities potentially generate higher living standards for all their residents and reduce urban poverty; and through the benefits of scale economies, public services, including those related to the MDGs can be provided in urban areas at a lower fixed unit cost. But when the positive forces driving cities are strained by urban congestion, service delivery is unable to keep pace with demand and slums can emerge.