An Update on the Sustainable Development Goals + Key Dates

Today the United Nations released their final assessment (PDF) on the eight Millennium Development Goals that were adopted fifteen years ago. Some of the goals have achieved greater global impact than others. However, the fact remains that more people are not living in poverty, less mothers and infants are losing their lives during childbirth, more people have access to water and sanitation, and more children are living past the age of five as quick examples of the MDGs success.

“The report confirms that the global efforts to achieve the Goals have saved millions of lives and improved conditions for millions more around the world,” Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said at the launch of the report in Oslo, Norway.

“These successes should be celebrated throughout our global community. At the same time, we are keenly aware of where we have come up short,” he added.

Those eight goals are slated to expire in September and an entirely new set of goals will be voted upon and adopted during the United Nations General Assembly. Now, there are 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and 169 targets on the table that need to be not only understood by civil society and governments and worked toward, but also financed.

What is particularly important about the SDGs is that an open working group with the input of seven million people helped create the framework for the new goals as opposed to a few select experts and member states that created and adopted the MDGs. This is partly why the new SDGs are so far-reaching in their outlook and ambitions. The 17 global goals for sustainable development can be found at globalgoals.org.

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Gender Equality Is Imperative to Reach Sustainable Development Goals

In 1994, governments, advocates, health organizations, women’s and youth activists gathered in Cairo for the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD). There, women’s reproductive health and rights took center stage in national and global development efforts.  This year marks the 25th anniversary of the ICPD and a renewed emphasis on reproductive health, women’s empowerment and equality will be discussed later this year in Nairobi as it pertains to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

At the recent High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development Secretary General António Guterres  said that there needs to be a ratcheting up of empowerment and gender equality in order to reach the 17 sustainable development goals. And, UN Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohamed said, ” A recent report found that no country is on track to fully achieve Goal 5 of the Sustainable Development Goals on gender equality by 2030.  And despite some important progress, we are far short of attaining the elusive “gender balance” goal in leadership established in the 1995 Beijing Platform for Action.

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World Health Leaders Change Targets to Reach 2030 Maternal Health Development Goal

The COVID pandemic did much to upend global health. Not only were hospitals filled to overcapacity worldwide with patients experiencing severe COVID symptoms, but entire health systems were also brought to a halt. Routine medical procedures and quality care in other areas besides COVID were preempted by the global virus. This has caused global health goals to suffer, notably decreasing preventable maternal deaths.

This month the World Health Organization along with the UNFPA created new goals in order to get back on track to reach Sustainable Development Goal 3.1 –  reducing the global maternal mortality ratio to less than 70 per 100 000 live births – by 2030. Right now, the estimates are at 211 deaths per 100,000 live births.

Currently, 810 women still die per day due to complications caused by pregnancy and childbirth. While this number is a drastic improvement from a decade ago there is still much to do in order to save more mothers’ lives not only in the United States but worldwide.

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What Are the UN Global Goals?

Asghar Zaidi, University of Southampton

At the end of one of the largest summits at the United Nations headquarters in New York, government representatives from all over the world will sign a commitment to new global development goals. These will replace the millennium development goals, setting objectives for bringing peace and prosperity, and reducing the impact of climate change.

UN member states have agreed on a list of 17 broad goals and 169 more specific targets. These goals are not legally binding but they will be important. They are aimed at eradicating hunger and poverty, while at the same time promoting peace, prosperity, health and education and combating climate change.

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3 Teas and Coffee Brands That Support Women

With all that is going on in the world, helping women through our everyday consumer actions is a way we can make a difference in their lives. While we can’t all take to the streets in protest or write impassioned letters to our senators or even donate to a cause every month, we can divert the money we spend to companies that support the causes we care most about. It’s called conscious consumerism and it’s on the rise. Consumers are increasingly voting with their dollars on products that make a social, economic, and environmental impact. Two of the most consumed products in the United States are tea and coffee giving consumers a real opportunity to make a difference based on where they buy. In fact, Americans drank a whopping 89 billion servings of tea in 2021, and on average Americans consume two to three cups of coffee per day. Sixty-six percent of Americans are coffee drinkers. 

I was recently sent two tea brands and a coffee brand to try and all three support women which I am exceptionally happy about. Here’s what they’re all about.

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Better Maternal Care in Africa Can Save Women from Suffering in Childbirth

Kareemah Gamieldien, Cape Peninsula University of Technology

Every year just over 500,000 women die from complications in pregnancy and childbirth across the world. Another 20 million experience severe complications. But many of these complications are entirely avoidable – including obstructed and protracted labour and one of its side-effects, obstetric fistula.

An obstetric fistula is a hole in the birth canal between the vagina and the rectum or between the vagina and the bladder that is largely caused by obstructed and prolonged labour. This can occur when the mother’s pelvis is too small or the baby is too large.

In sub-Saharan Africa for every 100,000 deliveries there are about 124 women who suffer an obstetric fistula in a rural area. Obstetric fistulas predominantly happen when women do not have access to quality emergency obstetric-care services. Antenatal care could help to identify potential problems early but will not have an impact if there is no skilled surgeon to assist with the labour.

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Maternal Health Heroes: Interview With Dr. Priya Agrawal #MHHSS

We are happy to publish our second interview in our Maternal Health Heroes Summer Series with Dr. Priya Agrawal, Executive Director of Merck for Mothers. Throughout the summer we will speak with some of the most notable maternal health advocates in the world ahead of the Global Maternal Newborn Health Conference that will be held in Mexico City between October 18 – 21, 2015.  Follow the conversation at #MHHSS.


Speaking with Dr. Priya Agrawal, Executive Director of Merck for Mothers, for this latest interview in our Maternal Health Heroes Summer Series, I instinctively realized that she is not only a gifted communicator with a passion for women’s health, but also an infectious advocate for safe motherhood both in the United States and worldwide.

Merck for Mothers, a 10-year, $500 million initiative aimed at reducing maternal mortality, was launched in 2011 and initially set robust goals to reduce women’s deaths during childbirth in low- and middle-income countries. Like many in America, Merck for Mothers failed to initially realize at the time that maternal mortality in the United States is a persistent problem that is steadily worsening. In fact, that line of thinking is quite understandable given most of the 800 women who die every day during childbirth live in sub-Saharan Africa and Southeast Asia.

The good news for women living in low- and middle-income countries, however, is maternal mortality has drastically been reduced by 45 percent since 1990, a marked change despite the future reductions that still need to occur during the Sustainable Development Goals era. Sadly, in the United States the numbers are not improving.  “The United States is the forgotten child when it comes to maternal mortality,” Agrawal mentions. “We learned very quickly that even in our backyards we had to do something. Maternal mortality has more than doubled in the United States. The trend is going in the wrong direction.” Given the amount of money spent on health care in the United States, we experience the highest maternal mortality ratio than any other developed country in the world.

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Maternal Health Heroes: Interview With H.E. Toyin Saraki

We are excited to launch our Maternal Health Heroes Summer Series with an interview with H.E. Mrs. Toyin Saraki, founder of the Wellbeing Foundation Africa. Throughout the summer we will speak with some of the most notable maternal health advocates in the world ahead of the Global Maternal Newborn Health Conference that will be held in Mexico City between October 18 – 21, 2015. Follow the conversation at #MHHSS.


When did you know global maternal health was a bigger issue than you previously realized?

I became aware of the serious issues surrounding maternal health and survival over 20 years ago, when I gave birth to twins in Nigeria. I tragically lost one of my twin babies during childbirth, and then had to fight for the survival of the other. Even though I was an educated and informed woman, I was unable to save the life of my stillborn second twin daughter because of the infrastructural deficiencies in Nigeria’s healthcare system at the time, including a fatal delay in finding an anesthetist for an emergency C-section. Although I was grateful to leave this painful experience with my first twin and my own life, I realized that this experience is an unavoidable reality for many women in Nigeria, and indeed across the world.

Globally, approximately 800 women die from preventable causes related to pregnancy and childbirth every day, and 99% of these deaths occur in developing countries. And, where a mother suffers, her child suffers; and more than 3 million babies die before they are a month old. I founded the Wellbeing Foundation Africa to help address this heartbreaking issue that affects so many women and children. At first, my view was much more localized and I did not know all of these global statistics and the injustice that was taking place on a daily basis; but now it is these statistics, and the real life stories behind the statistics, that spur me on to continue every day.

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Featured Photos: Ethiopian Women Gain Access to Trade Markets

These trainees are at a project known as “Connecting 1,500 Women and Girls to the Export Market”. The project was created in 2014 by Ethiopia’s First Lady, Mrs. Roman Tesfaye and trains women and girls to develop skills in industries such as leather, weaving, basketry, embroidery, gemstones, and spinning and connect them to global markets to increase the trade of their goods.

“Ethiopia has ambitious visions and dreams for women,” said First Lady Tesfaye. “We want to see women not only come out from the shackles of poverty but become the engines and drivers of our development.”

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon visited the project during the Financing for Development Conference in Addis Ababa.

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Multibillion-Dollar Fund Launches to Prevent Global Maternal, Newborn, and Child Deaths

This week at the Third International Conference on Financing for Development in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, a new multibillion-dollar global fund was launched. Called the Global Financing Facility, the fund will pump international, domestic, public, and private financing into high-burden, low-income countries that desperately need the funds to save more of its mothers, newborns, and children. The Global Financing Facility will be housed at the World Bank.

According to the World Bank, $12 billion of the needed $33.3 billion has already been pledged to this financing effort that will support the United Nations’ Every Woman Every Child. Some sources report that Norway has already pledged $600 million and Canada has pledged $200 million. Together, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the United States, Japan, and Canada (with a new $40 million pledge) have also committed $214 million. To date, those public numbers are far shy of the $12 billion that is said to have been “aligned” to the fund. Who pledged the additional funds I am not entirely sure. What is clear, however, is that over the course of 15 years, a total of $33.3 billion will be needed to save the lives of 4 million mothers and 101 million children and prevent 21 million stillbirths. [PDF]

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Key Partners Establish Road Map to Measure Health Outcomes

Featured Photo:Psychological and Social Work with Survivor and Affected Families in Liberia (UN Photo/Martine Perret)

Across the board there has been a global call for a strengthening of health systems particularly in low- and middle-income countries. Now, atop that, key partners including USAID, WHO, and the World Bank along with specific countries have laid out a road map and a 5-point Call to Action Plan to establish improved measurement systems on health outcomes at the country level.

“Accurate and timely health data are the foundation to improving public health. Without reliable information to set priorities and measure results, countries and their development partners are working in the dark,” said Margaret Chan, Director-General of WHO. “Investing in measurement is an investment in health and countries that build and strengthen local capacity are better positioned to achieve greater long-term success and better health outcomes.

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Save the Children Sounds Alarm on Plight of the World’s Urban Poor

When you think about very low- and middle-income countries you might assume that the poor in deep rural pockets in these countries have the highest chance for maternal and infant mortality. That isn’t the case according to Save the Children’s latest State of the World’s Mothers report released today.

The report says that it is the urban poor in countries like Haiti, Somalia, Niger and Mali, for example, who are suffering the most and have less access to health care, nutrition services, sanitation and clean water. Even as child mortality has decreased by 49 percent since 1990, the numbers do not fully tell the entire story. While resources have successfully helped the rural populations, the urban poor continue to suffer from a lack of overall services that will allow them to live and thrive.

“Our new report reveals a devastating child survival divide between the haves and have-nots, telling a tale of two cities among urban communities around the world, including the United States,” said Carolyn Miles, president and CEO of Save the Children in a statemtn. “For babies born in the big city, it’s survival of the richest.”

New data says there are 54 percent of the world’s population lives in urban areas. 860 million people live in urban slums in big cities like Delhi, Nairobi, Rio, and Johannesburg where the disparity between the rich and poor is incredibly stark. In fact, poor children in urban areas are two times more likely to die than their richer peers. In some countries, poor children are up to five times more likely to die before the age of five than their peers in a much higher income bracket.

Slum area - Addis Ababa
Slum area – Addis Ababa

Urban slums continue to grow because poor migrants from rural areas seek jobs in cities. This causes squatter communities and slum-dwelling as well as a perpetual cycle of poverty. These migrants often believe that it is better to live in crowded slums in the city than in their rural home towns because they can at least find work. The tradeoff, however, comes in the form of poor living conditions.

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ONE Campaign Reports that Global Poverty is Deeply Rooted in Sexism

Featured Photo: Paolo Patruno – www.birthisadream.org

Today is International Women’s Day which calls upon the world to look at not only the seminal achievements women have made throughout history, but also assess the ways in which women and girls are being perpetually marginalized across the globe through sexist policies and cultural traditions. This sexism is further exacerbated in developing countries according to a new report just released by the ONE campaign, Poverty is Sexist: Why girls and women must be at the heart of the fight to end extreme poverty.

“It’s about time we refocused the development agenda on gender equity as a smart means of unleashing the potential for human, social, political and economic development everywhere,” says Dr Sipho S. Moyo, ONE Africa’s Executive Director. “This being the African Union Year of Women Empowerment, it is our opportunity to seize and promote the advancement of humankind by insisting on policy interventions by our African governments that promote and ensure equal opportunities for women and girls, especially in the poorest countries.

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Another Easy Way to Give Water for Good

Water issues continue to be front and center of global health and development goals. In fact, 783 million people today do not have sustainable access to clean, safe water. While there have been notable strides in providing access to water to regions in need around the world, that need is still astronomical.

Many NGOs and companies are on the frontlines of working towards ensuring communities have access to water. One such company is GIVN.

GIVN, a certified B-Corporation based in Chicago, provides water to communities in need through its three key partners: Water.org, Water is Basic, and UNICEF’s Tap Project. For every bottle of GIVN water you buy, one person will receive a full day of water. To date, GIVN’s sales have provided 800,000 days of clean water to communities in need.

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Nepali Women Increase Earning Potential Through Business Training #5by20

The energy and enthusiasm was palpable as we walked into a room full of eager women entrepreneurs role-playing the everyday dynamic between business owners and their customers. While the room was loaded with fun and laughter during this exercise, its importance was not lost on any of the women who had come to the campus of Coca-Cola Bottlers Nepal Limited’s (BNL) 5by20 training, an initiative to empower 10,000 women business owners across Nepal by 2020. Even though these women are already a part of Kathmandu’s bustling community of urban shop owners, they had come because they realized there are more business skills to learn, hone, and improve. And, as women in micro-enterprise the more skills they learn, the more they can earn for their households in a country where men overwhelmingly dominate the private sector.

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Pallavi Gautam, Senior Executive, Public Affairs and Communication (PAC) at Bottlers Nepal Limited conducts a 5by20 training on September 13 in Kathmandu.

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