Nigeria is ramping up its effort to fight extreme poverty in many of its poorest areas, using hundreds of millions of dollars available through an international debt relief program, combined with money from local governments, to expand health care, education, water infrastructure and other programs.
The government also has renewed its partnership with the Earth Institute, which has played a key role in advising the national and local governments on the scale-up of its programs. Since 2010, the institute has been helping local authorities design and implement development programs.
“The Millennium Development Goals have provided opportunities for governments across the world to touch the lives of the poorest and most vulnerable populations,” Nigerian President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan said. “My administration will continue to invest in the Millennium Development Goals sectors to improve access and the quality of education for our children, improve the reach and quality of our health service delivery and support public-private partnership arrangements for skills development in the agricultural sector and youth employment.”
The Earth Institute's Millennium Villages Project has provided key lessons and techniques for the Nigerian program. Millennium Villages Project operates in ten African countries, including in Nigeria, helping communities fight poverty, hunger and disease by improving health systems, agriculture and nutrition, and promoting business development. Rwanda and Senegal also have moved to expand their anti-poverty efforts nationwide and are working from the Millennium Villages Project model for the delivery of cross-sector interventions.
Nigeria's expansion will more than double the reach of the country's Conditional Grants Scheme, which funds development programs through local governments, and is part of Nigeria's broader plan to achieve the Millennium Development Goals by 2015. Those goals, established by the United Nations, aim to reduce the number of people living in extreme poverty by half, provide universal education, improve child and maternal health, promote gender equality and fight HIV/AIDS, among other targets.
“We are delighted and honored to be working with President Jonathan and his able team in the Nigerian MDGs Office,” Earth Institute Director Jeffrey Sachs said. “The Conditional Grants Scheme and its investment in the local government areas is a path-breaking accomplishment of truly lofty goals. And we're proud that the Millennium Villages Project has helped show that achievement of the Millennium Development Goals is possible.”
“The MDGs has provided a veritable means of collaboration between the three tiers of government and the development partners in meeting the nation's developmental objectives devoid of friction,” said Precious Kalamba Gbeneol, senior special assistant to the president on the Millennium Development Goals.
Under Nigeria's Conditional Grants Scheme, local governments agree to match funding from the national government. Nigeria has just released $150 million through the program to 113 local government areas, covering 20 million poor.
The government has said it will include another 148 local government areas in the next round of funding, and hopes to reach all 774 local governments by 2015.
Nigeria has been receiving more than $1 billion a year in international debt relief payments, and the president's office has declared that the money would go toward achieving the Millennium Development Goals.
Nigeria so far has committed $1.2 billion to achieve those goals. Money will go to build and supply 5,172 new classrooms, 565 health clinics and 2,147 clean water sources in some of the poorest parts of the country and potentially reaching more than 28 million Nigerians.
The program's achievements will be celebrated at a special event held in conjunction with the UN General Assembly at the Millennium Hotel in New York City on Sept. 27, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.
The Earth Institute, Columbia University, mobilizes the sciences, education and public policy to achieve a sustainable earth. Through interdisciplinary research among more than 500 scientists in diverse fields, the institute is adding to the knowledge necessary for addressing the challenges of the 21st century and beyond. With over two dozen associated degree curricula and a vibrant fellowship program, the Earth Institute is educating new leaders to become professionals and scholars in the growing field of sustainable development. We work alongside governments, businesses, nonprofit organizations and individuals to devise innovative strategies to protect the future of our planet.