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UNDP scores Nigeria low on human development

Posted by Seth Akintoye on 2004/12/06 | Views: 741 |

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UNDP scores Nigeria low on human development


Human development indices in the country have continued to deteriorate despite the government’s reforms.

Human development indices in the country have continued to deteriorate despite the government’s reforms.

According to the 2004 edition of the Human Development Report on Nigeria commissioned by the United Nations Development Programme in Nigeria, and released on Friday, poverty, corruption and inadequate spending on health are threatening the country’s development efforts.

The report said, "The Millennium Development Goals’ target of reducing under-five mortality by two-thirds, and maternal mortality ratio by three-quarters between 1990 and 2015 remains difficult in the face of challenges in the health systems in Nigeria, given the per capita expenditure on health ($30) and percentage of government budget spent on health care."

It condemned the low life expectancy at birth and the high mortality rates in the country.

"Current estimates put life expectancy at birth at 51 years, under-five mortality rate at 178 per 1,000 live births, infant mortality rate at 105 per 1,000 live births, and maternal mortality rate at 704 per 100,000 live births. These figures are unacceptably high.

"It is estimated that 3.2 to 3.8 million people are living with HIV in Nigeria, which implies that one in seven African living with HIV is a Nigerian.

"AIDS did not just grow into epidemic proportions overnight in Nigeria, (but) it was because the country failed to take the early warning signals seriously that its wounds festered."

The report, which focused on AIDS, said, "The first general reaction to the disease was to vehemently deny it, then give half-hearted attention to it when it began to wipe out its first set of victims."

It recommended a re-direction of public expenditure priorities in order to achieve the anti-poverty objective.

It supported this by making a veiled reference to the argument by the Nigerian Civil Society Network, which stated that between 1996 and 1998 when HIV was beginning to exert a heavy toll on the nation, federal budget for the health sector averaged 0.2 per cent.

It ranked the average budget on health as the lowest in the world and that total expenditure on AIDS in 1998 amounted to $0.03 per capita -the least in Africa.

The network also observed that debt servicing obligations in 2000 cost $1.5 billion, which was nine times the total health spending for 2001.

UNDP said, "The resulting fiscal imbalance, coupled with policy and institutional failure, unbridled corruption, capital flight, high levels of poverty, and collapsed public infrastructure has deepened poverty to a level of mass impoverishment."

Apart from poverty, the report highlighted nine other cultural practices aiding the spread of HIV/AIDS in the country.

"It is obvious that the harmful cultural practices like polygamy, courtesan ship, concubinage, wife hospitality, culturally approved s-xual intercourse with siblings’ wives, cult prostitution and levirate (wife inheritance) imply multiple s-xual partnership and translate to a high risk of contracting HIV.

"An estimated 70.0 per cent of Nigerians live below the poverty level, which is a deterioration from 27.2 per cent in 1980, 43.6 per cent in 1985 and 42.8 per cent in 1992," it said.

It noted that, "Nigeria is already hanging precariously with a greater percentage of its population living on less than one dollar per day without any sign of change.

"The proportion of total income of the core poor and the moderately poor spent on food is estimated at 75 per cent and 73 per cent respectively.

"Approximately 47-48 per cent of the labour force remains unemployed and does not produce. With a labour force estimated at 33million, this suggests that over 15 million are in need of suitable employment."

It said, however, that, "Primary school enrolment showed absolute figures of total enrolment for the decade, ranging from 12,690,798 in 1988 to 16,348,324 in 1998."

According to the report, "Although the absolute figures for 1998 appear higher than those for 1988, this might not indicate better enrolment rates given the projected population increase expected over the 10-year period."

Within the same period, junior secondary enrolment showed increases from 1,717,136 to 2, 728,728, though male enrolment remained higher than female enrolment.

However the percentage of female participation grew larger from 712,403 in 1988 to 1,300,976 in 1998.

For senior secondary schools, enrolment was 1,396, 557 in 1988 and 1, 777,779 in 1998.

Although the two enrolment figures would have led to the conclusion that the population of students grew, the report claimed that the decade’s annual average of -0.65 per cent indicated otherwise.

Primary school enrolment ratio for the decade was male 109.4, female 88.6 while secondary school enrolment ratio was: male 36.2, female 30.3.

"The total adult literacy rate is 60: 69 for males and 51 for females.

"Rural women are more at a disadvantage than their counterparts in the urban areas. Only 42 per cent of rural girls are enrolled in school compared with 72 per cent of urban girls," the report said.

It gave a geographical outlook of approach to education in Nigeria.

It said, "In the northern parts of the country, Muslim communities choose boys over girls in deciding which children to enroll in primary and secondary schools.

"In the southern parts, economic hardship also restricts families’ ability to send girls to school; instead, they are directed into commercial activities such as hawking all kinds of commodities."

On efforts to manage Nigeria’s debt service burden, the report said, "In 1986, 1989 and 1991 payments on small portions of the overall debt were re-scheduled by the Paris Club. In December 2000, the Paris Club agreed to re-schedule payments on a large amount of the overall debt of $23.4 billion.

But according to IMF’s Debt Sustainability Analysis for Nigeria in 2001, further relief beyond payment rescheduling might be necessary since actual payments would likely rise to 17-20 per cent of export earnings, with debt stock remaining at 170 per cent of export earnings until at least 2005.

The Punch, Monday, December 06, 2004

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