Bhutan will meet MDG targets: PM

The unfulfilled targets will be pursued through sustainable development goals

SDGs: The government will continue to work towards fulfilling the unmet Millennium Development Goal (MDG) targets the deadline for which ends this December.

Bhutan has yet to fulfil targets in education and gender, malnutrition and sanitation.

Prime Minister Tshering Tobgay said at the meet the press session yesterday that these goals would be carried over in to the relevant sustainable development goals (SDGs).

“The SDGs will be included in the 11th Plan as we revise the Plan,” Lyonchoen said.

He said the UN system is keen on working with Bhutan particularly on few SDGs, to help it achieve early success. “This will showcase Bhutan’s commitment to implement the SDGs,” Lyonchoen said.

Bhutan has yet to meet targets in malnutrition in children with 37 percent of children stunted and 11.1 percent underweight.

In education and gender, Bhutan needs more women at tertiary education level and representation in politics and decision-making posts.

The achievement of complete gender parity at primary and secondary levels was achieved by 2009. The ratio of girls in tertiary education has risen sharply, from 54 percent in 2007 to 71 percent in 2012 and the number continues to rise.

Lyonchoen said the MDGs required male and female to be equal at tertiary level.

“It was not possible because 12 years ago we were not having equal numbers at the primary level because of which it was not possible to have that equal number at the college level,” he said. “It was technically almost not doable.”

A United Nations Development Programme report states that given the low population base, the rising trend of HIV infection is an alarming development. Today, there are 440 detected cases. UNAIDS estimates that more than 1,100 people could be infected in Bhutan.

The total numbers of HIV cases detected remains small in global comparison and the prevalence is estimated to be around 0.15 percent of the national population.

Lyonchoen said the country was supposed to reduce HIV detected cases by half by 2015.

He said, Bhutan began the detection process only 15 years ago, which was why the baseline was questionable because the country is still establishing its capacity to detect HIV patients.

“As we build our detection capacity, we detected many more people and so again the goal was not relevant to Bhutan,” Lyonchoen said.

“Malnutrition is very serious,” he said. “It has come down but it is nowhere it is supposed to be. This is a serious concern.”

Health minister Tandin Wangchuk said that starting last year, the ministry has started offering screening services in major hospitals and Basic Health Unit grade II for HIV, Sexually Transmitted Infections and Hepatitis.

“The ministry has spent about Nu 50M on those facilities and if we can detect more cases, it’s a good sign,” the minister said.

Measures such as giving eggs and promoting school agriculture programme have been taken by agriculture and health ministries to reduce malnutrition.

“We’re confident that the rates of malnutrition would have gone down in the next survey,“ Lyonpo Tandin Wangchuk said.

Education minister Mingbo Dukpa said his ministry was one of the top performers of the targets in the region with 98 percent net primary enrolment rate.

“The ministry is working on giving quality education and taking better care of the school children,” Lyonpo Mingbo said.

Tshering Palden

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