EVEN a layman can tell that Sindh has missed the 2015 MDG deadline. All one wants to know is the magnitude of the failure. Judging by a 2012 UN report, the province has hardly moved forward from where it was at the dawn of the millennium. That makes it a spectacular failure.

The number of people living with hunger was 31 per cent in the province in 2001-02. By 2005-06, it ranged between 19 and 26 per cent, depending on the agro climatic zone. The cut-off target was 13 per cent.

The under-5 mortality rate should have reduced to 52 deaths per 1000 live births. But it was last recorded at 100 in 2006-07. “Certain other relevant indicators pertinent to the under-5 mortality rate, such as the number of children under the age of five suffering from diarrhoea over the preceding 30 days, show significant variation and worrisome trends across districts in Sindh,” the UN report noted.

The maternal mortality ratio (MMR) was reduced from 600 maternal deaths per 100,000 to 350 in 2008-09, but it was still a far cry from the target of 140.

On the positive side, Sindh has fared better in promoting gender equality. The parity index for primary education was 0.77 in 2010-11, meaning that for every 100 boys completing primary, there were 77 girls. “The educational targets are likely to be achieved in certain districts and may be achieved at the provincial level if the performance is maintained,” it noted.

Apart from Sindh’s poor performance, one thing is clear: there’s a serious — very serious — lack of updated data. We, in 2015, are talking about a 2012 report which itself sometimes relies on 2005 figures. Apparently, we must wait until 2025 to know for sure if Sindh is really going to meet or miss the MDGs by end-2015. If this is not funny, what is?

Kaiser Bengali, who has been adviser to the Sindh chief minister, however, can’t wait till 2025. “MDGs? They won’t even be able to meet the SDGs,” he says, referring to the Sustainable Development Goals which are to replace the MDGs. “We have to do a lot of work. We have to revamp the education system ... But unfortunately, we haven’t yet begun.” He blames government’s deficient sense of responsibility as one reason behind the province’s present difficult situation.

Another general reason can be governments’ love affair with excuses. For instance, in the foreword of the UN report quoted above, Chief Minister Qaim Ali Shah, after conceding that the per­for­mance was not that satisfactory with some indicators, tried to even things up: “Let me also point out that in the backdrop of devastating floods which inflicted considerable damage to infrastructure and loss of lives, the MDG-related achievements of the Government of Sindh become even more significant.”

Wow. We are moved.

Taking refuge in such words is, however, not peculiar to any province or leader. Planning and Development Minister Ahsan Iqbal, in his written reply to the Senate last year about Pakistan’s performance on MDGs, said: “Reasons for missing most of the indicators include internal and external, economic and non-economic challenges.” What other challenges any country on the globe ever faced, one might ask.

Coming back to Sindh’s tale of woes, the province would now do well to at least sustain the little progress it has made in some indicators while trying to forge ahead.

Published in Dawn, September 13th, 2015

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