Young boys in Malawi on a break from class pose for the camera at The United Nations Millennium Villages Project (photo on Flickr by whl.travel).
The Economist has started an interesting new blog, ‘Feast and famine: Demography and development’. On this blog, the magazine’s correspondents report on and analyse matters relating to demography and development, including food production, public health and other factors that determine the wealth and poverty of nations.
The current blog post argues that the jury is still out on whether the Millennium Villages Project has lifted half a million people in 14 villages out of poverty.
‘For something designed to improve lives in some of the poorest parts of the world, the Millennium Villages Project certainly stirs up a lot of bad blood. The project, the brain child of Jeffrey Sachs of Columbia University in New York, takes 14 “villages” (mostly small areas) with around 500,000 people, and scales up aid to them in the hope of springing the poverty trap in which they are caught. Late in 2011, there was a flurry of accusation and rebuttal at the time of the first independent evaluation of one of the villages, Sauri in Kenya, which challenged some of the claims made on behalf of the villages. The Economist reviewed the dispute here and Mr Sachs criticised our account. Now debate has erupted again, producing yet another round of criticism online, as well as duelling editorials in two leading British scientific journals . . . .
‘This time, the Millennium Villages project, responding to criticism from people at the World Bank and elsewhere that there were no “control villages” with which to compare the 14 in the project, has published a detailed account of how nine millennium villages and nine comparisons sites have fared over the past three years, judged by 18 indicators, ranging from child mortality and maternal health to measles immunisation and the use of anti-malaria bednets. The study appears in the Lancet, a British journal. . . .
‘Gabriel Demombynes . . . argues that the Lancet study overstates the annual fall in child mortality by using what he thinks are misleading periods for calculation. He argues that the fall in child mortality should be calculated over a slightly longer period, so the annual fall works out at 5.9%, not 7.8%, as in the Lancet. And he uses figures from his own study for comparison. These show that the countries where the millennium villages are experienced average annual falls in child mortality of 6.5%. In other words, on his calculations, the fall in child mortality in the villages was slightly less than the average for the region as a whole, instead of much greater.
‘The Economist concluded its previous article by saying that the evidence does not yet support the claim that the millennium villages project is making a decisive impact. That still seems about right.’ (Read the whole article: Jeffrey Sachs and the millennium villages: Millennium bugs, 14 May 2012,
Here are excerpts from some previous posts:
‘For the past couple of years, nutrition has become the most important lens for looking at poverty reduction. This article examines some of the reasons for that. It argues that the focus of the 1960s and 1970s on growing more staple foods (with aid to offset shortfalls) came unstuck with the Ethiopian famine of 1984. Attention then switched to targeting economic growth and the income of the poorest, but this was found wanting when the commodity-price spikes of 2007-08 and 2010-11 came along. So nutrition came to be seen as a more rounded way of judging whether the lives of the poor are really getting better. A report by the IMF and World Bank casts new light on why nutrition matters. It points out that countries around the world have done a terrible job of improving nutrition. . . .’ Development: Why nutrition matters, 24 Apr 2012
Regarding ‘People and the Planet’, a new report from Britain’s Royal Society, the blog says, ‘. . . In general, the report is weak on the trade-offs between economic growth and pollution. It is extremely desirable that the poorest people in the world should become less poor. But it is practically unavoidable that as they do so, pollution will increase. The question is by how much. At the moment, the average African produces less than one tonne of CO2 equivalent each year; the average American produces more than ten times as much. A report by Britain’s finest scientific minds explaining how the poorest could rise towards American standards of living without also rising towards American standards of pollution would have been extremely valuable. Alas, this is not that report. Population and growth: But on the whole it stinks, 30 Apr 2012