October 03 2011
Millennium Villages, on Track to Reach 2015 Goals, Launch Final Phase
NEW YORK, October 3, 2011 –The Millennium Villages Project—the largest program working throughout Africa to achieve internationally agreed upon development goals—is on track to reach its targets and, today, launched its second, final phase at United Nations headquarters. With some 500,000 people across sub-Saharan Africa taking part in the project to achieve the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), the program will move forward with more than $72 million in new pledges, including $47.4 million announced today by global philanthropist George Soros. The new investments, aimed at business development and diversification of income, ensure that communities will be on the path to self-sufficiency when the project ends in 2015, said the program’s leaders.
The launch of phase two of the project was attended by the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, Mr. Soros, and dozens of other supporters and partners of the project from around the world.
“As we move closer to 2015, I look ahead with tremendous optimism at Africa’s progress on the Millennium Development Goals,” said the Secretary-General. “The Millennium Villages Project offers an inspiring example of how we can achieve the Goals in sub-Saharan Africa. Having visited the Millennium Village of Mwandama, Malawi, in 2010, I have seen firsthand how an integrated, holistic approach to development can help entire communities lift themselves out of extreme poverty, giving them the tools they need to build a brighter future.”
The event included the release of a report, The Millennium Villages Project: The Next Five Years: 2011-2015, which details gains made since 2006, when the program started, and plans for the next five years.
Highlights from 2006-09 across 11 Millennium Villages include the following: • Malaria rates fell by 72% • 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 • Number of students benefitting from school meal programs increased to 75%
The project accomplished these results while keeping within its budget of $120 per person per year, a level of support consistent with internationally agreed upon targets fo rofficial development assistance, said the organizers.
“The Millennium Villages Project is showing that communities can make progress toward ending extreme poverty using an affordable and accessible approach, one that governments can replicate and implement on their own,” said Mr. Soros. “We are proud to support this groundbreaking effort, and inspired by the tremendous progress Millennium Village communities are making across Africa.”
Soros’s Open Society Foundation, which has been a leading supporter of the Project since the beginning, announced today that it will continue its partnership. For 2011-2015, the foundation is pledging $27.4 million to support core project interventions, key staff positions, and monitoring and evaluation activities. In addition, the Soros Economic Development Fund announced it would provide up to $20 million in loans to support investment-worthy business projects that arise within the villages over the next five years. Additional pledges to date in support of the next phase of the Millennium Villages total more than $22 million.
“We are thrilled by the dramatic gains communities are making in the fight against poverty, hunger, and disease,” said Jeffrey Sachs, Director of the Millennium Villages Project and Director of the Earth Institute, Columbia University. “With significant measurable improvements in health, education, agriculture, gender equality, and the other sectors across the board, and with continued effort in the second phase of the Project, there is no question that the Millennium Villages can achieve the Millennium Development Goals by 2015.”
In the next phase, the Millennium Villages Project will focus on raising incomes through business development and linking farmers to larger markets, in order to ensure continued growth and greater economic stability. Additional priorities through 2015 will be to fine-tune service delivery and other systems put in place in the first phase; to ensure sustainability by gradually withdrawing financial support from the project as governments scale up investments; and to document and replicate project interventions through rigorous monitoring and evaluation, as well as an open-source online toolkit.
The program has been cooperating with UN agencies, and will continue to do so over the next phase. Together with the joint United Nations program on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the project is monitoring acute malnutrition, and working to strengthen health in the villages by eliminating mother-to-child transmission of HIV. The World Food Programme (WFP) is helping strengthen nutrition and build markets for farmers in the project through the breakthrough Purchase for Progress initiative, while the UN Population Fund (UNFPA) is focusing on promoting universal access to reproductive health within the communities. The UN Office for Project Services (UNOPS) provides operational support.
Other private sector support has come from companies including Agrium, Ericsson, General Electric, JM Eagle, Mosaic, and Sumitomo Chemical. Partnership with these companies has allowed village residents to access mobile connectivity, modern health technology, free mosquito nets, improved seeds and fertilizer, and more than 300 miles of piped water systems.
The Millennium Villages Project is an initiative of The Earth Institute, Millennium Promise, and UN Office for Project Services (UNOPS). It is working 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 14 Millennium Villages, all of which are located in “hunger hotspots” reflective of major farming systems across ten sub-Saharan African countries. The Project is demonstrating that the MDGs are achievable through a targeted, holistic, and cost-effective approach to community- and national- level investments.