Countries in Latin America and the Caribbean are for the most part on track to meet the health-related Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), a new United Nations report indicates, but significant gaps remain between and within countries.
Overcoming those gaps by 2015 will require greater public spending on health, expansion of social protection in health, and special efforts targeting the most vulnerable communities, said Juan Manuel Sotelo, Manager of External Relations at the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO).
Sotelo’s comments were made during a roundtable discussion on the recent UN report Achieving the Millennium Development Goals with Equality in Latin America and the Caribbean: Progress and Challenges, held today at the Organization of American States (OAS) in Washington, D.C.
Infant (under age 1) mortality declined an average of 52.3 percent between 1990 and 2009 in the 20 countries of the Region for which data are available, indicating sufficient progress to meet the MDG-4 target of reducing infant mortality by two-thirds by the year 2015.
Nevertheless, infant mortality rates continue to vary across and within countries, particularly between urban and rural populations and different ethnic groups.
In the area of HIV/AIDS, Latin America and the Caribbean has come closer to achieving universal access to antiretroviral drugs than any other region, and new HIV cases are on the decline in many countries. But several recent studies show an increase in HIV cases among indigenous populations and certain groups of disadvantaged young people.
One of the areas of least progress in health in Latin America and the Caribbean is maternal mortality, according the UN report. Only a handful of countries for which data are available show a downward trend in maternal deaths, and it remains unclear whether the Region will meet the MDG target in this area.
Other participants in today’s roundtable discussion were Alicia Bárcena, Executive Secretary of the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC); Heraldo Muñoz, Director of the Regional Bureau for Latin America and the Caribbean of the United Nations Development Program (UNDP); Arturo Valenzuela, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs; José Miguel Insulza, Secretary General of the OAS; and Irene Klinger, Director of the Department of International Affairs of the OAS.
Heads of state and other leaders are slated to discuss MGD progress in other regions of the world as part of the 2010 Millennium Summit, to be held next week (Sept. 20-22) at United Nations headquarters in New York.