The Millennium Development Goals Awards ceremony last night in New York was a brief moment of celebration for the wonderful progress that some countries have made towards the goals. Even as we dwell this week on sobering statistics and the tough road ahead, these awards are an inspiring reminder that success is possible in the face of tremendous odds in poor countries.
President Mutharika received, on behalf of Malawi, the first award for Goal 1 (end poverty and hunger). As I'd written in a previous post a few months ago, the country has achieved major progress in reducing hunger. President Mutharika noted with justifiable pride that Malawi has gone from being a chronic food deficit country to a food surplus country. "Poor as we are, we sent 200 million tons of rice to Haiti," he said. A glimpse of the future, if Malawi's success is replicated elsewhere.
Receiving the award for Goal 4 (reduce child mortality), Sheikh Hasina of Bangladesh invoked the Bengali poet Rabindranath Tagore, who says it better than anyone:
Every time a child is born
it brings with it the hope that God
is not yet disappointed with man.
The other awards went to the following countries: Tanzania for Goal 2 (achieve universal education), Liberia for Goal 3 (promote gender equality), Nepal for Goal 5 (improve maternal health), Sierra Leone for Goal 6 (combat communicable diseases), and Burkina Faso for Goal 7 (ensure environmental sustainability).
But, as Juan Somavia, Director-General of the International Labour Organization said last night, the biggest recognition really goes to the millions of families who still live and work in poverty.