Nigeria stands a good chance of achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) by 2015, according to the 2011 UN MDGs report.
The report, which was released in Lagos on Thursday, identified significant progress made on each goal over the last ten years, and expressed confidence that the country has a realistic chance with achieving the goals by the target date.
Nigeria received credit for integrating the MDGs into national development strategies and leading the continent in introducing initiatives aimed at reducing poverty and improving public services.
Such initiatives pioneered by the country, include compulsory free basic education, conditional cash transfers to the vulnerable for social protection, and federal grants given to support state and local government investments.
However, efforts in other areas such as improving access to safe water, empowering women and ensuring that births are attended by skilled health workers, still scored low.
The report suggests that more efforts should be put into having innovative governance reforms, and providing more financing and coordination.
Of the eight goals, Goal six which seeks to Ã¢â‚¬ËœCombat HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseasesÃ¢â‚¬â„¢, has had one of the most impressive improvements.
According to the report, Nigeria has almost eradicated polio by reducing the number of cases by 98 percent between 2009 and 2010.
The prevalence of HIV was also said to have fallen from 5.8 percent in 2001 to 4.2 percent in 2008, with improvements in its awareness and access to HIV/AIDS treatment doubling from 16.7 percent in 2007 to 34.4 percent in 2008.
The UN also reports that twice as many children have been protected from malaria through the initial phase of the nationwide distribution of 72 million long-lasting insecticide-treated bed nets.
Goal five, which aims to Ã¢â‚¬ËœImprove Maternal HealthÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ has also had a success story, with maternal mortality falling by 32 percent in five years.
According to the latest UN report, NigeriaÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s maternal mortality, which used to be one of the highest rates in the world, fell from 800 deaths in 2003 to 545 deaths per 100000 live births, in 2008. The report states that recent progress has been promising, maintaining that the country will reach its target by 2015 if such improvements are sustained.
Another remarkable success made towards achieving the MDGs in the country, was in the health sector.
The UN observed that infant mortality rate has fallen from 100 deaths per 1000 live births in 2003 to 75 deaths per 1000 live births in 2008.
Also in the same period, the mortality rate of children under five years has reduced from 201 to 157 deaths per 1000 live births.
Speaking at the launch of the report, Isaac Aladeloye, head, United Nations ChildrenÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s Fund (UNICEF), Lagos office, described all the MDGs as interwoven, stressing the importance of poverty alleviation to achieving all the goals.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“Without eradicating extreme poverty, you might not be able to reduce child mortality or achieve any other goal, and they are all inter-related that without one, you will likely not achieve the other.Ã¢â‚¬Â The report also scored Nigeria fairly in the first goal, which seeks to Ã¢â‚¬ËœEradicate extreme poverty and hungerÃ¢â‚¬â„¢, with the proportion of underweight children reducing from 35.7 percent in 1990 to 23.1 percent in 2008.
This success was attributed to recent economic growth, particularly in the countryÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s agricultural sector.
Other notable achievements were recorded in the promotion of universal primary education, and gender equality and women empowerment.
Nine out of ten children are now said to be enrolled in school, however, with regional differences and low completion rate in some parts of the country.
More work to be done
The report also identified that the number of girls enrolled in primary schools is improving, but not yet impressive, calling for a need to raise teaching standards in schools.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“Regional variations in the determinants of gender inequality mean that state and local government efforts will be critical to the achievement of this goal (Goal three),Ã¢â‚¬Â the report reads.
Encouraging the countryÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s government to double its efforts, the report identified its Ã¢â‚¬â„¢large and diverse populationÃ¢â‚¬â„¢, Ã¢â‚¬Ëœstark inequalities between regionsÃ¢â‚¬â„¢, Ã¢â‚¬Ëœhuman resource and funding gapsÃ¢â‚¬â„¢, and Ã¢â‚¬Ëœcomplex federal systemÃ¢â‚¬â„¢, as some of the challenges confronting the nation.
Yemisi Ransome-Kuti, the head of the Nigerian Network of NGOs, said achieving the goals by 2015 requires the collective efforts of everyone.
She said, Ã¢â‚¬Å“Nigerians need to be angrier; we need to demand more accountability from our leaders. We also focus too much on (President) Goodluck Jonathan and the people on top, but we leave the councillors and the local government chairpersons to do what they like.Ã¢â‚¬Â