Millennium Development Goals in Sri Lanka: A statistical review
In the year 2000, the leaders of the world decided to launch a
concerted attack on poverty and the problems of illiteracy, hunger, and
discrimination against women, unsafe drinking water and a degraded
The United Nations at the dawn of the new Millennium, leaders from
virtually all countries agreed to a set of eight ambitious Goals called
Millennium Development Goals (MDG). Developing countries, have been
taking the lead in this campaign, particularly regarding the first seven
Goals concerning direct improvements in human well-being.
The eighth Goal includes steps that developed countries need to take
for supporting the campaigns of developing countries to win the struggle
of eradicating poverty.
Sri Lanka is one of the 189 member states that adopted the Millennium
Declaration and in doing so committed itself to the achievement of the
Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).
This necessitates regular review reports and a user-friendly database
to store, retrieve and present trends and patterns of MDG indicators for
tracking progress in achieving the goals. It is to serve this purpose
the department of Census and Statistics recently released a publication
and a database system on the MDGs.
The "Millennium Development Goals in Sri Lanka - 2006" is a
statistical review of a set of selected indicators for monitoring
progress towards Millennium Development Goals (MDG).
There are 8 MDGs with 18 targets. For monitoring progress towards
these targets, 48 indicators, with some additions, have been
recommended. The Department of Census and Statistics has compiled 24 of
the MDG indicators on its own.
The trends and patterns of these 24 indicators over the past two
decades are reviewed in this publication.
A user-friendly database to monitor the progress in achieving MDGs
was also released with this publication. This database has been prepared
by using the software DevInfo which is offered by the United Nations for
Data on MDG indicators together with a set of tables, charts and maps
presenting the trends and patterns of the indicators is included in this
Data available in this database can be retrieved and presented
satisfying user needs easily.
The global MDGs are to be achieved over a 25-year period with 1990 as
the base year and 2015 as the final year for most of the targets.
Taking the data from surveys and censuses conducted by the Department
of Census and Statistics, this report and the database provide data
mainly for two years, one year each from the 1990s and 2000s, depending
on the availability of data.
The report provides a comparison of the expected achievements based
on a linear extrapolation against the targets set for 2015. An
initiative is now under way to identify the data gaps and to compile
more MDG indicators to improve the monitoring of the Sri Lanka's
progress towards MDGs.
The first Goal is poverty eradication. While all MDG goals are inter
related, a main determinant of other MDGs is poverty. Poverty permeates
all sectors and holds back progress.
There are two targets set for this Goal. Target 1 is to halve,
between 1990 and 2015, the proportion of people below the poverty line.
For international comparison, the poverty line is set at 1 US $ a
day. However, the national governments also set official poverty lines.
The proportion of population whose income is less than the national
poverty threshold is known as the poverty headcount ratio and this is
the indicator presented here.
As measured by this indicator, as at 2002, about one fifth of the
household population in Sri Lanka was living in poverty and given the
recent trends the 2015 target of 13% is unlikely to be achieved.
Accelerated efforts being made to eradicate poverty, might change this
Halving, between 1990 and 2015, the proportion of people who suffer
from hunger is the second target of Goal 1. Prevalence of underweight in
children under five years of age is the indicator for monitoring
Underweight has declined from 37.7% in 1993 to 29.4% in 2000.
Continuation of this will result in a prevalence of just under 12% by
2015 which is considerably lower than the target 19% and is therefore,
well on track to reach this target.
Goal 2 of the Millennium Declaration is to achieve universal primary
education. The target set for this goal is to ensure that, by 2015,
children everywhere, boys and girls alike will be able to complete a
full course of primary schooling. Achieving universal education is also
a strategy to reduce poverty and expand the options available to both
girls and boys.
Four indicators are used to track progress: net enrolment ratio in
primary education, proportion of pupils starting grade 1 who reach grade
5, primary completion rate and literacy rate of 15-24 year olds. Sri
Lanka has already made much progress in terms of all these indicators.
Net primary school enrolment ratio for both boys and girls is over
95%, proportion reaching grade 5 has exceeded 95%, and the literacy rate
for 15 to 24 year olds is over 95% for both males and females. Sri Lanka
is on track to reaching universal primary education well in advance of
Promoting gender equality and empowering women is the third
Millennium Development Goal. The target for this goal is to eliminate
gender disparity in primary and secondary education preferably by 2005
and in all levels of education no later than 2015.
Two indicators related to education for monitoring progress of Goal 3
are ratio of girls to boys in primary school, secondary and tertiary
education and ratio of literate women to men 15-24 years old.
Access to education and the ability to read and write are the essence
Sri Lanka has already eliminated gender disparity in both primary and
junior secondary education, the parity index being nearly 100% in 2002.
In senior secondary and tertiary levels share of women is even higher
than that of boys. There is no disparity in literacy between men and
women the parity being 100.9% in 2001.
Goals 4 and 5 are to reduce child mortality and maternal mortality
respectively. The targets are to reduce by two-thirds the under-five
mortality rate and by three quarters the maternal mortality ratio. The
indicators for child mortality are infant mortality rate, under five
mortality rate and measles immunization coverage.
For maternal mortality they are maternal mortality ratio and births
attended by skilled health personnel.
Child mortality and maternal mortality in Sri Lanka have recorded
reductions to levels that are considerably low and comparable with those
obtained in some developed countries. They are the lowest among South
Immunisation coverage has been sustained over 80%. About 96% of
births occur in health institutions and are attended by skilled
The country continues to make progress in reducing child mortality
and improving maternal health.
The current trends indicate that Sri Lanka is on track to achieving
child and maternal mortality goals.
The sixth goal of the Millennium declaration is combating HIV/AIDS,
malaria and other diseases. Two targets are set. One is to have halted
by 2015 and begun to reverse the spread of HIV/AIDS. One of the proxy
indicators used for this goal and for which data are available is the
contraceptive prevalence rate for women 15 - 49 years of age.
By the year 2000, the contraceptive prevalence rate in Sri Lanka had
risen to 70% from a level of 66% in 1993.
Ensuring environmental sustainability is the seventh Goal. One target
of this goal is to integrate the principles of sustainable development
into country policies and programmes and reverse the loss of
While there are several indicators for this target, one for which
data are available in Sri Lanka is the proportion of population using
Still a very high percentage (80%) of the population in Sri Lanka use
solid fuels. According to the data available for 2001, use of solid
fuels is significantly higher in rural (86%) and estate areas (96%)
compared to urban areas (35%).
The second Target of this goal is to halve, by 2015, the proportion
of people without access to safe drinking water and basic sanitation.
The two indicators for monitoring progress are the population with
sustainable access to an improved water source, urban and rural and the
proportion of urban and rural population with improved sanitation. The
percentage of households in Sri Lanka having access to a source of safe
drinking water is considerably high.
According to the Census of Population and Housing, 2001, 82% of the
households in Sri Lanka have access to a safe source of drinking water.
According to the same source of data, about 66% of the households have
access to improved sanitation and further actions need to be taken to
improve the situation. There are significant differences between urban
and rural areas.
The final goal of the Millennium declaration is developing a global
partnership for development. Seven targets are set under this goal with
17 indicators. Data are available for this report for three of them:
unemployment rate, personal computers in use per 100 population and
Internet users per 100 population.
The unemployment rate has been brought down from 32% in 1996 to 28%
in 2002 and has been declining further. According to a study conducted
in 2004, there are only 3.8 computers in use for 100 household
population. Internet use is also very low and according to the same
study only 2.8 % people use Internet per 100 population.
The Millennium Development goals now constitute a central focus of
national development. The country is potentially on tract on most of the
indicators described here.
Among the key achievements are access to safe drinking water,
equitable primary education, literacy, child and maternal health. A
significant achievement is that there is no gender disparity in these
achievements. However, there remain considerable challenges.
The critical challenge is that 23% of Sri Lanka's population is still
living below the national poverty line.