Millennium Villages tackle MDGs with minimal funds 

Wed, 7 Dec 2011

NEW YORK – The Millennium Villages Project has released figures demonstrating that it is possible to achieve the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) in rural Africa with minimal investment.

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon at Millenium Village
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and his wife, Yoo Soon-taek, test a communal water pump at Mwandama Millennium Village, Malawi. Photo: UN Photo

The project aims to create tangible and replicable results while keeping within its donor budget of $60 per person, a level of support consistent with internationally agreed targets for official development assistance. The $60 is half of the total investment of $120 per capita, with the other half coming from government, local communities and other partners.

The project is currently on track to enable 500,000 people in 10 countries to achieve the internationally agreed development goals, and to point the way for the rest of rural Africa. UNOPS is providing critical operational support in the form of contract and payroll administration services for 800 project staff across sub-Saharan Africa.

The second phase of the project was launched in October 2011 at the United Nations headquarters in New York. It was attended by the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, Founder and Chairman of the Open Society Foundations George Soros, UNOPS Executive Director Jan Mattsson and dozens of other supporters of the project from around the world.

The event included the release of a report detailing gains made since the project’s start in 2006, as well as plans for the next five years.

Highlights from 2006 to 2009 across 11 Millennium Villages include the following:

  • Malaria rates fell by 72% over the first three years
  • Households with access to improved drinking water more than tripled
  • Across six sites, average maize yields doubled, and in some sites quadrupled
  • Rates of chronic malnutrition dropped by one-third among children under two
  • Students benefitting from school meal programmes increased to 75%

“We are thrilled by the rapid gains that the Millennium Village communities are making in the fight against poverty, hunger, and disease,” said Jeffrey Sachs, Director of the Millennium Villages Project, Director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University, and President of Millennium Promise. “With the significant improvements already achieved in health, education, agriculture, gender equality and incomes, plus the continued progress that we can expect in the second phase of the project, the Millennium Villages are on track to achieve the Millennium Development Goals by 2015.”

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said: “As we look toward 2015 and beyond, we can be tremendously optimistic. For one example of how we can advance the Millennium Development Goals in sub-Saharan Africa, we need only look to the Millennium Village Project. At the project in Mwandama, Malawi, I saw first-hand how an integrated, holistic approach to development can help entire communities lift themselves out of extreme poverty. It gave them the tools they need to build a brighter future.”

The Millennium Villages Project is an initiative of The Earth Institute and Millennium Promise, working in close partnership with UNOPS and many partners in government, business, and civil society. The project collaborates with impoverished rural communities, African governments, and a global network of scientific, corporate, and non-governmental partners to apply evidence-based policies and interventions recommended by the UN Millennium Project, combined with local on-the-ground knowledge.

Approximately 500,000 people live in the Millennium Villages, of which there are now 14, all located in ‘hunger hotspots’ across ten sub-Saharan African countries.

The programme will move into its second and final phase with more than $72 million in new pledges, including $47.4 million from the Open Society Foundations, announced at the launch by George Soros. This phase will focus on business development to break the poverty trap and to ensure that communities are on the path to self-sufficiency when the project ends in 2015.