An Ambitious Strategy

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, along with Professor Jeffrey D. Sachs, his Special Advisor on the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), visited the Millennium Village of Mwandama in Malawi this week to witness the significant progress that the country and local communities are making toward achieving the MDGs.

Ki-moon’s visit, the first by a sitting UN Secretary-General to a Millennium Village, coincides with the publication of “Harvests of Development in Africa: The Millennium Villages After Three Years,” the first in a series of reports presenting early data on the significant progress toward the MDGs achieved in rural Millennium Village sites throughout Africa. The data, collected from sample sites, capture results after three years of integrated activities spanning agriculture, health, education, infrastructure, and business development. According to the report, the five sites have averaged well over a doubling in staple crop yields, a drop in average malaria prevalence from 24 to 10 percent; average declines in chronic malnutrition from 50 to 35 percent of local infants; and major increases in access to improved drinking water, jumping on average from 20 to 72 percent of local populations.

Though many countries in Africa continue to lag behind, Ki-moon expressed optimism that the Millennium Development Goals could still be attained through practical initiatives backed by stronger international cooperation.

Said Ki-moon; “I congratulate the leadership of the village, and the whole country, especially the women of Mwandama, for their hard work and their commitment to a better life for their children and for generations to come. Today I call on every country to look closely at this success. It is a case study in what is possible, even in the poorest of places in the world.”

Mwandama has seen dramatic improvements in health and education. The vast majority of families now have enough food thanks to new fertilizers and seeds allowing for the area’s small farmers to produce a surplus of grain. Bed-nets have been distributed to all households. Nearly everyone now has clean drinking water. Significantly more children are going to school, including many more girls and roughly 40% of vulnerable people now get tested for AIDS.

These results show the impact that an integrated set of scientific, low-cost interventions can have in a community-led effort to achieve the MDGs. Significant gains have been made in food production, disease control, income generation, and access to basic infrastructure, encouraging these communities to make further progress in the years ahead.

“Mobile communications play an important role in helping such communities to develop sustainably,” said Lars Lindén, Head of Ericsson sub-Saharan Africa. “Building out the mobile networks in such regions are a key business interest for Ericsson as not only will it play a vital role in improving economic viability and livelihoods, but more importantly in social development and dramatic improvement in quality of life.  We are proud to be part of such initiatives as working in such a partnership has enabled us to achieve what no one of us could have done alone.”

Approximately 500,000 people now live in 80 Millennium Villages, all of which are located in “hunger hotspots” reflective of major farming systems across ten sub-Saharan African countries. The project is demonstrating that the Millennium Development Goals are achievable through a targeted, holistic approach to community- and national- level investments.

“The message I want to take away is this. We should support these ambitious strategies for meeting the Millennium Development Goals. They work – offer real-world, real-people evidence that we can achieve these goals – on schedule and with the resources world leaders have already committed to.  All we have to do is keep trying,” concludes Ki-moon.

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An Ambitious Strategy