Some of the structural news from Nepal turns out to be surprisingly good:
Quote: MILLENNIUM GOALS-NEPAL: Surprisingly, Hope
Marty Logan, Inter Press Service (IPS)
Wed Sep 7, 9:10 PM ET
KATHMANDU, Sep 6 (IPS) - Nearly 30,000 Nepali children die yearly in their first month of life, the third highest rate in the world. Yet, the battered country is on track to slash under-five mortality by two-thirds within a decade, says the United Nations. [..]
The child death target is one of eight Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) set by the global community in 2000. [..] A UN report released here Monday documents Nepal's steps in reaching those targets.
''Nepal has made significant progress over the past 15 years in reducing poverty, improving access to education, health services and drinking water... [But] a massive drop in the country's poverty rate in the past eight years (by 11 percent), reported earlier this year, was tempered by the finding that the gap between reach and poor is widening. [..]
According to the report, by 2015 Nepal is likely to meet the MDG goal of halving the proportion of people living below the national poverty line. Cutting in half the fraction of people who do not have access to safe drinking water is another target ''likely'' to be met, it adds. [..]
But ''the report strongly states that the goal of achieving universal primary education is unlikely to be met''. Similarly, efforts will likely fail to halt and reverse the spread of HIV/AIDS by 2015, despite some improvements.
Follows a bit on political developments:
Development in Nepal, one of South Asia's poorest countries where nearly four out of 10 people lives on less than a dollar a day, has been stunted by a Maoist uprising that has spread across most of the countryside. In the past decade, 12,000 people have died. [..] On Feb. 1 King Gyanendra fired the government for failing to defeat the Maoists. [..]
On Saturday, the Maoists declared a unilateral three-month ceasefire, coinciding with the festival season in this officially Hindu nation; the government said Monday it is ''too early'' to embrace the move. Others see it as the rebels' attempt to further woo political parties -- that have reluctantly joined hands to fight the king and restore parliament -- into an alliance.
And back to the subject of improving health and development:
[F]or children, developments such as better control of diarrhoea, improved immunisation, nation-wide Vitamin A supplements and better management of acute respiratory illnesses, especially pneumonia, are likely causes for the ''remarkable reduction'' in Nepal's child mortality in the last 30 years, says the report.
If that progress continues, the country will probably attain the MDG child mortality goal despite the conflict's destructive impact on rural life.
With an HIV/AIDS prevalence rate of 0.5 percent in the 15-49 age group, the disease would not seem to be a big health threat. However, "data suggests that Nepal has entered the stage of a concentrated epidemic," says the report. ''This means that HIV/AIDS prevalence consistently exceeds five percent in some sub-populations such as female sex workers and injecting drug users.''
If the disease follows trends elsewhere it will move from those sub- groups to the general population, warns the report. This ''has the potential to cause an explosive epidemic''.
One study estimates AIDS could be the leading cause of death in the 15- 49 age group by the end of the decade. ''The alarm bells have started ringing,'' says Pande, adding, ''not enough has been done''. [..]
Asked to summarise the report's results, Pande responded: ''The trend so far looks good. Progress is on track but there is uncertaintyif things improve and we can upscale development to include disadvantaged groups, this will also contribute to the peace process.''