Breakthrough Action Plan Required to Achieve MDGs

By Leonard Ackon

The Government of Ghana and other world leaders will converge at the United Nations Headquarters in New York to review the status of the MDGs. The MDGs are the least development indicators to tackling poverty in its various dimensions – income poverty, disease, lack of adequate shelter, and exclusion - while promoting gender equality, environmental sustainability and education.

Ghana's quest of achieving the goals saw the formulation and implementation of the Growth and Poverty Reduction Strategy documents (GPRS I, II). This process also led to the development of social interventions such as the Capitation Grant, Free Maternal Health Care, School Feeding Programme, Livelihoods Empowerment Against Poverty (LEAP) among others as a way of scaling up efforts to realizing the 2015 deadline. In the course of the implementation of these Strategies, the nation also benefited from the Highly Indepted Poor Countries Initiative, Multi-Donor Budget Support and the United States Millennium Challenge Account to enhance development.

These initiatives have led to an appreciable progress in the process of attaining the goals especially on eradicating extreme poverty and hunger, and achieving universal primary education. Current statistics reveal that Ghana is on track to achieving the goal on eradicating extreme poverty and hunger by half, and achieving universal primary education. Poverty rate declined from 51.7% in 1991 to 28.5% in 2006. This means that the target of 26% can be achieved before the 2015 deadline. On the part of extreme poverty, it has been reduced from 36.5% to 18.2% as against the target of 19%. Ghana is also seeing a tremendous increase in primary school enrolment. Gross Enrolment Ratio has increased at all levels of basic schools between 1991 and 2008. At the Kindergarten level, it increased from 55.6% in 1991 to 89.9% in 2008 while at the primary level it has increased from 74% in 1991 to 95.20% in 2008. It is very clear that Ghana may achieve these goals ahead of the 2015 deadline if currents efforts are sustained.

However, in as much as government and other stakeholders need to be commended, it is important to accelerate efforts to achieving the goals wholistically. It is rather unfortunate that we are performing woefully on the goal on infant and maternal health. Despite all the social interventions such as the Free Maternal Health, Management of Safe Abortion Programme, Reproductive Health Strategy and the Maternal and Neonatal Health Programme, Ghana is off-track in achieving the goal on maternal and child health. Infant mortality reduced from 122 per 1000 live births in 1990 t0 98 per 1000 live births in 1998. This figure has seen an increased to 111 deaths per 1,000 live births revealing that progress has been stagnant.

The country is also not doing well on the goal on Gender Parity, especially on governance. A quick look at women in decision making positions reveals how women are inadequately represented. In the Legislative arm of governance for instance, women's participation presently stands at about 8.2% while that of the regional and districts levels are worse. On political appointment, out of the twenty three (23)-Member of State, only three (3) are women.

The situation is not that different on sanitation and environment. Sanitation continues to remain a major challenge and Ghana is off-track in reaching this goal. The 2010 WHO/UNICEF Joint Monitoring Programme report which was released in March has estimated that only 13 out of 100 Ghanaians have access to improved sanitation. Also, the Ghana Statistical Service Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey report for 2006, revealed that open defecation takes place in all ten regions of Ghana, but most widespread in the Upper East Region with about 82 percent without any form of latrine, followed by the Upper West Region with about 79 percent and then Northern Region with about 73. Cholera, malaria, typhoid and diarrhea continue to be the dominant cases at the Out Patients Departments (OPD) of the country's hospitals. These cases which have directs impacts on the health goals are all sanitation related diseases. On water coverage, available data from the Water and Sanitation Sector Monitoring Platform (WSMP) show that there was a significant increase in the proportion of the population that used improved drinking water sources from 56% in 1990 to 74% in 2006.

It is therefore important that government develops a Breakthrough Action Plan in consultation with Civil Society Organisations, Faith Based Organisations, Traditional Authorities, Development Partners and the Private Sector. This action plan with timelines should be implemented on a non-partisan manner to accelerate the achievements of the goals. The breakthrough plan should be a shared responsibility with specific strategy on how to address the maternal and infant mortality, gender inequality, sanitation and malaria and HIV/AIDS. As part of developing the breakthrough plan, the following action points should also be considered in accelerating efforts at achieving the goals.

Awareness Creation/Engagement
The goals are about livelihoods and it concerns every citizen and this makes it very important for those who would be directly affected when it is either realized or not to be adequately informed. Currently, the case is that most Ghanaians do not have adequate information about what the MDGs are. The MDGs needs to be sent to the door steps of traditional authorities and religious bodies to sensitize their constituent through the use of local languages should be adopted.

Data Collection
For sometime now it has been very difficult accessing an updated reliable data on the goals. Most data available are either outdated or not reliable enough. This is making it extremely difficult for one to determine the state of Ghana with regards to the MDGs. Data plays a very important role in the MDGs process. The availability of reliable data that can easily be interpreted offers the nation the opportunity to review its interventions and determine which approach to use in achieving each of the goals. Data will also enable us to determine which of the goals needs more capital injection and what needs to be done to scale up efforts. Strong national statistical systems for tracking progress are a major step that needs to be taken to achieving the goals. It is therefore urgent that GSS is adequately supported financially to carry out timely statistical research.

Monitoring and Evaluation
Effective monitoring and evaluation of Ghana's process forms a very key component in our quest to realizing the goals. This critical action will help determine and develop new strategies in achieving the goals. In a global village like this, it is very important to always review existing efforts and adopt new ways that can stand the challenges that comes with achieving the goals. CSOs, the media and citizens have a core role to play in monitoring and evaluating national processes. An evaluated national process will help the country to focus squarely on scaling up proven interventions. It is therefore imperative for every stakeholder to participate in national processes of effectively monitoring and evaluating the goals from time to time.

Achieving the MDGs is a necessity and addressing it intensively calls for collaboration and engagement with CSOs, Faith Based Organisations (FBOs), Traditional Authorities (TAs), Media, Parliament, Government, Citizens and International Organizations who are the proposed active actors in the MDGs attainment process.

The MDGs are livelihood empowerment initiatives and we cannot afford to fail in achieving them. We must aggressively engage every stakeholder in implementing interventions that will scale up our efforts in realising the goals.