United Nations Development Programmes (UNDP) assessment on the progress of Sierra Leone Millennium Development Goals (MDG) has revealed that Goal 1: Eradicate extreme poverty and hunger is by far the most difficult of all goals for Sierra Leone to attain.
The first target of this goal is to halve between 1990 and 2015, the proportion of people whose income is less than $1 a day and target 2 is to halve the proportion of people who suffer from hunger, within the same time frame.
Barely six years to go, the mother of all goals -poverty and hunger- which deals with the eradication of both poverty and hunger, is by far the most difficult of all goals for Sierra Leone to attain, states the UNDP online assessment report on the progress of Sierra Leone MDG’s
The key factors affecting MDG 1, according to the report include issues of growth, equity, education, health, good governance (economic and political), infrastructure, technology, environment, capacity development, etc. “All these factors are interrelated and have impacted negatively on the attainment of this goal during the past few decades.” It states.
The report reveals that annual economic growth averaged about 4 per cent and 3.5 percent in the 1960s and 1970s, respectively, but declined sharply to an average of 1.5 percent in the 1980s, mainly because of misguided economic policies, indiscipline in the public sector, mismanagement and several other problems.
It cited that the armed conflict, which started in 1991, plunged the economy into further decline with an average fall in output of 4.5 percent annually between 1990 and 2000. Thus between 1990 and 2000, growth declined by about 36 percent. At the same time savings and, investment rates have been very low, while income distribution has been highly skewed towards the rich.
According to the online assessment report it should be indicated that there have been some remarkable improvements in economic performance during the post-conflict era. The cessation of hostilities and eventual restoration of security countrywide strengthened confidence, which facilitated economic recovery, mostly spurred by a resumption of activities in the agricultural and mining sectors. Between 2002 and 2005, real GDP growth averaged around 7 per cent per annum. The economy grew between 6 and 9% a year from 2004 to 2006, and is projected to grow at similar rates in the next years, it states.
The above notwithstanding, poverty still remains a very serious problem in Sierra Leone.
According to the report more robust growth performance is needed to restore per capita income levels to their pre-war levels, let alone to improve them.
It disclosed that the World Bank, in its Country Assistance Strategy for Sierra Leone, observed that, given the country’s annual population growth rate of 2.1 per cent, rural per capita incomes have to grow by at least 5.6 percent annually and urban by 4.0 percent annually.
The report further revealed that the current economic recovery, since 2000, is perceptible, with an arrest in the growth of the number of people living in extreme poverty. However, the proportion is still high, at 70%, and with the current trend, the MDG target will not be met. Nationwide, the poverty gap index is 29%, showing a high incidence and depth of poverty, and is particularly high in rural areas where it is situated at 34%. Bombali and Kailahun both have poverty gaps above 40% (precisely 50% and 42% respectively), showing a serious disparity between regions. The share of the poorest quintile in national consumption is 1.1%, the worst record for Low Human Development Countries in the 2005 UNDP Human Development Report (HDR).
Another target of major concern, related to MDG 1, the report states is the under-five malnourishment rate. From a relatively low level in 1990, this indicator has taken an adverse trend. Of particular concern is the low “exclusive breastfeeding” rate for 0-5 month olds, and the timely complimentary feeding rate. These result in an underweight prevalence rate of 31% and a stunting prevalence of 40%.
Naturally, it states “the attainment of Goal one depends on progress in a number of sectors, key among which are agriculture, other natural resource sectors (such as mining, forestry, fisheries), infrastructure and industry. The poverty diagnostics undertaken for the SL-PRSP focus on income poverty and food security as the key factors for the endemic state of poverty in Sierra Leone.”