21 April 2017

Ethiopia's Progress in Human Development

It is more than quarter of a century since the first Human Development Report (HDR) introduced a new approach for advancing human development progress. It is basically about expanding the richness of human life, rather than simply the richness of the economy in which human beings live. It is an approach that is focused on people, their opportunities and choices.

One of the striking elements in the human development approach is the fact that it focuses on improving the lives of people lead rather than assuming that economic growth will automatically lead to greater well-being for all.

Increased income is seen as a means to development, rather than an end in itself, which entails that human development is the sum of improvements in many different aspects of human opportunities, and choices. In a specific explanation of the matter, it is about peoples' success in pursuit of freedom to choose the life they want for themselves. It is also about people having a multitude of choices in their life that would eventually suffice their needs.

Scholars in the sector agree on the three foundations for human development. They are to live a long, healthy and creative life, to be knowledgeable, and to have access to resources needed for a decent standard of living, although many other things are important too.

The HDRs have been released in most of years, if not every year for the last quarter of a century exploring different themes. The 2016 HDR, produced by the Human Development Report Office for the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) was recently released, themed "Human Development for Everyone."

According to the report, the levels of human development have improved all over the world. Every developing region's HDI value increased considerably between 1990 and 2015, although progress has been slowing since 2010. This reflects important advances not only in income, but also in health and education. Between 1990 and 2015 the aggregate HDI value of the least developed countries increased 46 percent, and the aggregate HDI value for low human development countries increased by 40 percent, the report claims.

The report showed that, the global extreme poverty rate has dropped in more than two-thirds from the 35 percent in 1990 to less than 11 percent in 2013. Similarly, the global population suffering from hunger declined from 15 percent in 2000 to 11 percent in 2016.

Another important success registered in Human Development according to the report is the global child mortality rate which was more than halved between 1990 and 2015. Strikingly, the steepest decline was in Sub-Saharan Africa, where the challenge was the greatest. While children in the poorest households are far less likely to survive to their fifth birthdays, the mortality rate is declining faster for children in poor households than for other children.

Likewise, the world also relished advancement in the department of maternal health whereby maternal mortality rates declined considerably since 1990 with 45 percent global decline as of 2013. With access to professional health care improved, nowadays more than 71 percent of child births worldwide were attended by skilled health personnel.

The report further indicates that the proportion of pregnant women in north Africa who receive at least four antenatal medical visits rose from 50 percent in 1990 to 89 percent in 2014, the largest improvement worldwide. Globally, nearly two-thirds of women aged 15-49 who are married or in union use contraception, up from 55 percent in 1990.

The HDP also signifies that, global health is also improving, with the proportion of undernourished people nearly halved since 1990 in developing regions. Accordingly, overall mortality rates are falling in part because of actions to tackle malaria, tuberculosis, measles, and HIV and AIDS. Between 2001 and 2015 more than 6.8 million malaria deaths, many of them in children, were prevented.

The number of new HIV infections also fell, from an estimated 3.5 million in 2000 to 2.1 million in 2013. From 1995 to 2013 increasing use of anti-retroviral therapy averted 7.6 million deaths from AIDS. Tuberculosis mortality rates also fell in response to efforts to prevent, diagnose and treat the disease, with 37 million lives saved between 2000 and 2013, claims the report.

It is evident that these macro level successes are the aggregates of efforts and achievements in national and regional levels. Thus, it is quite essential to look at the achievement of Ethiopia in the overall human development sphere.

Human development progress over the past 25 years has been impressive according to reports from UNDP yet it is also conceded that the gains have not been universal and are not in an unvarying manner. There are clearly noticeable imbalances across countries, as admitted by the report, "socioeconomic, ethnic and racial groups; urban and rural areas; and women and men" are all the parameters of disparity. Millions of people are unable to reach their full potential in life because they suffer deprivations in multiple dimensions of human development.

Correspondingly, Ethiopia's human development value for 2015 is 0.448, which put the country in the low human development category ranking it at 174 out of 188 countries and territories. Between 2000 and 2015, Ethiopia's HDI value increased from 0.283 to 0.448, an increase of 58.2 percent which could apparently be construed as a significant leap.

In a similar fashion, Ethiopia's life expectancy at birth increased by 17.5 years between 1990 and 2015, mean years of schooling increased by 1.1 years and expected years of schooling increased by 5.3 years. In the same period, Ethiopia's Gross National Income per capita increased by about 134.7 percent.

Assessing the progress of Ethiopia in relation to other countries, for instance, during the period between 2000 and 2015, Ethiopia, Burundi and Mali experienced different degrees of progress toward increasing their HDIs.

The other key sphere of concern in Ethiopia's HDR is sustainable development which contains a selection of 15 key indicators that cover environmental, economic and social aspects. Environmental sustainability indicators are basically related to renewable energy consumption, carbon-dioxide emissions, change in forest area and fresh water withdrawals by which Ethiopia has shown a remarkable leap.

Economic sustainability indicators look at adjusted net savings, external debt stock, natural resources depletion, diversity of economy and government's spending on research and development. Social sustainability is captured by changes in income and gender inequality, multidimensional poverty and the projected old age dependency ratio.

The report exclaimed, what humanity has achieved over 25 years despite all the challenges it has faced gives hope that fundamental change is possible. Nonetheless, progress on many fronts has been uneven and deprivations linger, what has been achieved so far can become a foundation for progress in many areas. The successes gained so far have opened doors for new possibilities in overcoming challenges and attain what once seemed unattainable. Thus, universal human development is attainable without leaving no one behind regardless of age, citizenship, race, ethnicity or gender.


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