As the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) approach the 2015 deadline, this year’s World Health Statistics shows the considerable progress made in reducing child and maternal deaths, improving nutrition and reducing deaths and illness from HIV infection, tuberculosis and malaria.
“Intensive efforts to achieve the MDGs have clearly improved health for people all over the world,” says Dr Margaret Chan, Director-General of WHO. “But with less than 1000 days to go to reach the MDG deadline, it is timely to ask if these efforts have made a difference in reducing the unacceptable inequities between the richest and poorest countries.”
This year, the World Health Statistics compares progress made by countries with the best health status and those with least-favourable health status at the MDG baseline year of 1990 and again two decades later.
Impressive health progress for countries in lowest health status category
It shows that, in absolute terms, countries in the lowest 25% category of health status have made impressive health progress.
For example, the absolute gap in child mortality between the top and bottom countries was reduced from 171 deaths per 1000 live births in 1990 to 107 deaths per 1000 live births in 2011. Some countries that were among those with the world’s highest child mortality rates in 1990 – including Bangladesh, Bhutan, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Madagascar, Nepal, Rwanda, Senegal and Timor-Leste – have improved child survival to such an extent that they no longer belong to that group.
However, despite the fact that 27 countries have reached the MDG target already, the current rates of progress will not be sufficient to reach the global target of a two-thirds reduction in 1990 levels of child mortality by 2015.