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Opinion Piece, Editorial Address Results From Millennium Villages Project

The Millennium Villages Project (MVP), established in Africa to determine what improvements can be made when programs addressing health, education, agriculture, and other development needs are implemented simultaneously, published its first results in the Lancet on Tuesday. The following opinion piece and editorial address the findings.

  • Jeffrey Sachs, CNN: “In three short years, starting from conditions of massive death tolls and a lack of health services, the Millennium Villages were able to reduce the deaths of children under five-years-old by around 22 percent, roughly three times the rate of improvement of the countries at large,” Sachs, director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University, writes, adding these results, “coupled with broader trends around the world, should be a wake-up call: We can end the deaths of millions of young children and mothers each year by building on recent innovations.” Sachs lists several innovations, including new vaccines and mobile phone technologies, that are helping to improve health care, but says only about “half the support” is available to rollout the innovations to a wider population. He concludes, “If children continue to die by the millions, it will be the result of misguided priorities, not true budget limits. Instead of making excuses for lives lost, let us celebrate the remarkable progress we are making and commit ourselves to finishing this historic and worthy task” (5/9).
  • Nature editorial: “There is an intuitive appeal to the Millennium Villages international development project — the brainchild of economist Jeffrey Sachs” — because it “takes a broad approach and aims to tackle the root causes of poverty and ill health together, unlike most aid projects, which focus on just one area,” the editorial says. “Improvements on the ground seem impressive,” “[b]ut prominent international development researchers and experts have taken issue with some of the project’s claims of progress,” including the results on child mortality, the editorial writes, adding, “Their main concerns, they say, are weaknesses in the project’s design and data analysis, as well as a lack of transparency over the raw data and project costs.” “Greater transparency is essential to build trust and credibility. The project’s approach has potential, but little can be said for sure yet about its true impact,” the editorial continues, noting that a recent MVP initiative, funded by the U.K. government, “builds in independent scrutiny from the start, and has been open and transparent about its costs. All future projects should follow this model” (5/10).

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