UN Foundation holds special High-level Session on the MDGs
A United Nation Foundation’s high-level Session on Ghana’s performance on the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) on Thursday called for renewed strategy and institutional changes to propel faster the wheel for the set goals.
The session called for renewed political leadership and commitment towards addressing the inequalities in poverty issues, child and maternal health, Family Planning (FP), HIV and AIDS, malaria, as well as gender and education issues.
It indicated that Ghana was on track to meeting MDG 1 but raised questions on the attainment of targets set in MDG 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 if the country continued with current programmes without renewed strategies to hasten the attainment of the set goals.
The high-level session formed a key part of the itinerary for the UN Foundation’s historic Board Meeting in Ghana scheduled for October 19 to 23.
Dr Peter Quartey, Senior Research Fellow of the Institute of Statistical, Social and Economic Research, University of Ghana, Legon, in his review of the nation’s performance on the Goal 1, which calls for poverty reduction, recommended the strengthening of policies and programmes such as the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS), Capitation Grant, School Feeding Programme and the National Social Protection Plan to widen access for the less privileged.
He indicated that though Ghana had made tremendous gains in terms of reducing poverty over the past 20 years, there still existed spatial inequalities as well as inequalities between regions and districts, especially in the rural savannah areas.
He mentioned high malnutrition and poor health levels as major characteristics of such underprivileged societies.
Dr Quartey also mentioned challenges including overdependence on primary agricultural products and limited diversification, the vulnerability of the country to external shocks and the low domestic savings culture of the citizenry as major contributing factors that had accounted for the slow performance of the attainment of the set goals.
“The problem of large households in rural farming settings often threatens commercial food production outcomes, as such families consume a huge chunk of their production, leaving very little for sale.”
According to Dr Andrew Arkutu, Chairperson, National Population Council, who spoke on the MDGs 4, 5, 6 advocated for the establishment of a National Committee on MDGs to monitor progress, conduct investigations on maternal and child deaths and also document best practices among other things.
Dr Arkutu said Ghana was still struggling to meet the mark though tremendous efforts had been made over the years to reduce child and maternal mortality and expand access to quality health care for the category of persons.
He said the current increase in child and maternal mortality, HIV and AIDS as well as malaria was unacceptable and required renewed effort and partnership by all sectors to eliminate the contributory factors.
These include access and affordability to health care facilities, improved infrastructure and equipment, increased funding as well as providing enhanced training for health personnel.
Dr Arkutu stressed that though improved access and use of family planning may not be a panacea for all ills, they should be considered a national priority to target more, especially adolescents, to help them make informed decisions and choices on their sexual and reproductive health.
He advocated programmes to ensure contraceptive security and availability of widest possible choices as well as mixed choices including emergency contraceptives and the inclusion of family planning services in the NHIS and focus on post-natal and post-abortion clinics.
There should also be the strengthening of professional leadership, safe motherhood programmes and creation of support of political and traditional leadership on such issues.
Dr Arkutu noted that Ghana lost grounds over the last 10 years due to changing patterns in international funding support leading to setbacks in the HIV and AIDS prevalence rates, malaria, child and maternal mortality rates.
He said the possibility of meeting the 2015 target for MDG 4, 5 and 6 therefore seem elusive. However, with continued efforts and renewed strategies the situation could be addressed.
Mrs Ernestina Dankyi, a Ph D student of the University of Ghana, called for a critical focus on achieving quality education devoid of gender imbalances from the basic up to the tertiary level to ensure high enrolment and retention rates among both sexes.
She said this was critical to ensuring high literacy rates leading to increased socio-economic and political contributions, poverty reduction as well as quality health of all citizenry.
Mr Kofi Annan, Chancellor, UG, and the originator of the MDGs, highlighted the critical role of agriculture as a driving force to ensure food security and eradication of poverty among underprivileged societies.
He encouraged the Government of Ghana to expand its programmes on agriculture and increase funding to the sector.
This would ensure the use of modern technology for enhanced production of food and other agricultural produce and provide employment opportunities for farming communities to reduce poverty.