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Turning the Millennium Development Goals Into Reality

Women attend a savings and lending class arranged by A Self Help Assistance Program.

Did you know that the Millennium Development Goals are the most ambitious, targeted, and comprehensive set of objectives ever created to eradicate extreme poverty? Established by the United Nations in the year 2000, they set eight specific targets that all world governments agreed to meet by 2015. They are:

  1. Cut extreme poverty and hunger by half
  2. Achieve universal primary education
  3. Promote gender equality and empower women
  4. Reduce child mortality by two-thirds
  5. Improve maternal health, reducing the maternal mortality ratio by two-thirds
  6. Combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases
  7. Ensure environmental sustainability
  8. Develop a global partnership for development

Foreign aid has often fallen short over the years from what was initially promised, yet remarkable progress has been made to date, including a 74 percent reduction in measles deaths, 4 million people on life-saving AIDS treatment, and more than 30 million additional children in primary school in Africa alone.

Aid for Africa members make their impact felt on a daily basis.  In the weeks ahead, we will highlight some of their work to bring these goals closer to reality. We start with goal number one – cutting extreme poverty and hunger in half – and the work of A Self Help Assistance Program (ASAP Africa).

Since 2001, ASAP Africa has helped more than 32,000 underprivileged families in Zimbabwe rise out of poverty through their Village Savings and Lending Project. The program teaches individuals to take control of their own economic situation by forming clubs which pool money and lend it to members (with interest) so they can establish their own businesses. ASAP Africa field officers provide training in bookkeeping and loan appraisal so that the club can become self-sufficient after about a year.

Beyond the obvious economic benefits, women – who make up the bulk of borrowers –  receive greater respect from family members and their community because in many cases they are making decisions on their own for the very first time.

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