Source: XINHUA | 2011-10-4 | ONLINE EDITION
UNITED NATIONS, Oct. 3 (Xinhua) -- The Millennium Villages Project, a science-based partnership in Africa working to achieve the UN Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), has made "tremendous breakthroughs" in areas known as "hunger hotspots," the director of the project said here Monday.
Jeffrey Sachs, director of Millennium Villages Project, told a press conference here that the project which launched its last phase at UN Headquarters in New York made "tremendous breakthroughs in achieving MDGs in places that were written off as absolutely hopeless."
The project, which Sachs said is "on track," will enable 500, 000 people in 10 countries across sub-Saharan Africa to achieve the internationally agreed development goals.
The MDGs are globally agreed goals aimed at cutting poverty, hunger, maternal and infant deaths, diseases, inadequate shelter, gender inequality and environmental degradation, as well as other social ills.
As the largest scale program to achieve MDGs through integrated world development approach in sub-Saharan Africa, Sachs said the project works with clusters of villages of 30,000 to 50,000 people using low-cost technologies in a highly effective way, making sure communities benefit by simultaneously investing in health, agriculture education, infrastructure and business development.
The project will focus on raising incomes through business development and linking farmers to larger markets to ensure continued growth and greater economic stability.
Sachs, a special adviser on the MDGs for UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, is also a professor at Columbia University and director of Columbia's Earth Institute.
By focusing on business development, it seeks to break the poverty track and ensure communities are on the path to self- sufficiency when the project ends in 2015.
It will fine-tune service delivery and other local systems put in place the first five years and to ensure sustainability by gradually withdrawing financial support from the project as governments scale up in investments.
It will also replicate project interventions through rigorous monitoring and evaluation.
"This is a project that spans peer reviewed scientific investigation with on the ground real time dramatic scaling up of development activities," Sachs said.
George Soros, founder and chairman of the Open Society Foundations whose foundation has provided key support since the beginning of the project, announced the renewal of the partnership with the project. Soros is a philanthropist whose organization, the Open Society Foundations work for democracy and human rights around the world.
As the project enters its next phase with more than 72 million U.S. dollars in new pledges, Soros said 47.4 million U.S. dollars from the foundation would be added on top of those pledges.
Some of the highlights of the project which started in 2006 across 11 Millennium Villages, include an overall decrease of malaria rates by 72 percent over the first three years and an increase of access to improved drinking water for households which has tripled.
The program has worked closely with several UN agencies, like the World Food Program (WFP) and the UN Population Fund (UNFPA).