Human Development Report
Guyana on track with hunger, water, education targets
Infant mortality, life expectancy still gloomy
Stabroek News
July 30, 2002

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Guyana is on track to meet its targets in halving the number of persons affected by hunger, poor water supply and ensuring all children complete primary education.

This is according to the recently released United Nations Development Programme Human Development Report, titled 'Deepening Democracy in a Fragmented World,' launched last Wednesday.

The country is far behind target in reducing under-five and infant mortality rates by two-thirds and may not meet the 2015 agreed timetable, but is still said to be making reasonable progress in attaining the millennium developmental goals.

Guyana is ranked at 103 on the human development index, which was seen as reasonable despite it having depreciated some ten places from last year's position, especially since it is saddled with a huge foreign debt which has a bearing on its final ranking.

According to data published in the 2002 report, the country is on track in meeting targets for ensuring that half of the proportion of its people suffering from hunger/undernourishment is met. The country is also cited as being on track with targets for halving the proportion of people without access to improved water sources. But it would need to increase spending on education especially at the tertiary level including developing the local IT sector to see any significant improvement in its position in the index standing. These figures rate comparably with sister Caribbean and Latin American states with whom the country is grouped since several including neighbouring Trinidad and Tobago were said to be far behind in reaching targets for halving hunger.

In the region, only Barbados showed achievements in attainment of several of the goals including that of halving hunger, eliminating gender disparity in relation to females in secondary education, along with access to improved water sources.

However several other states including Trinidad and Tobago, Venezuela, Honduras, Cuba, Nicaragua, Guatemala, Jamaica, Dominican Republic and El Salvador are either far behind, lagging or slipping back in several of the areas targeted.

On the human development index Guyana ranked competitively among its Caribbean and Latin neighbours in relation to the combined primary, secondary and tertiary gross enrolment ratio but is on the lower rung in relation to the life expectancy index.

In relating to the education index, the country is at the upper level while this position significantly reduces in relation to its Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

In relation to the human poverty index the country ranks higher than several sister regional states, which include giant neighbour Brazil, Jamaica and several Central American states. Demographic trends in the report paint a gloomy picture for the country with a slight growth in population totals over the last 25 years, but with the anticipation that this will shrink back to its 1975 levels by 2015. Further, annual population growth rates are expected to decrease over the next 15 years, with urban population continuing to increase while the percentage of the population under 15 will reduce. The rate of fertility has shown a marked decline over the 1995-2000 period.

In relation to commitments to health: access, services and resources, Guyana ranks competitively in respect of its population using adequate sanitation facilities, improved water sources and its immunization of one year olds against tuberculosis and measles. However the population's access to essential drugs is similar to that of several countries on the African continent who are classified in the low human development bracket of the report. The physician to people ratio is also low with 18 doctors to every 100,000 persons; only Haiti, classified in the low human development category, with eight per 100,000 has a lower ratio in the region.

However, the country's spending on health is on par with most of the region although the per capita spent is low.

The report also indicates that 14% of the country's population is under nourished with 12% of children under five being underweight for their age. Fourteen per cent of these infants are born with low birth weight and statistics for person living with HIV/AIDS show the highest percentage belong to the category of women between the ages of 15-49 and children showing there is large mother to child infection.

The scores for malaria infection and cigarette consumption are rated at significant levels as opposed to other nations in the region.

The HDR rates 173 countries in terms of their human development, and capacity to adequately cater for the needs of their citizens.