Convoy popularises millennium development goals

A convoy of 40 people traveling in UN vehicles, two buses and a truck with camping gear drove through Djibouti's five districts to raise awareness about the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and highlight the role women can play in achieving these goals.

Organised by the UN Development Programme (UNDP) and other UN agencies, the convoy drove through towns and villages, meeting students and teachers, and distributing books with information on the MDGs. It also held meetings with community leaders.

"We went camping, sleeping under the stars when it was necessary," Noura Hamladji of UNDP Djibouti told IRIN on Wednesday. "A television crew joined the team, as well as 30 artistes and UNDP staff. The cultural group, Adagio, livened up the nights, explaining the MDG objectives in the local languages."

A documentary is being produced in conjunction with Djibouti Radio and Television to highlight the key points of the initiative. It is based on the two-week tour the convoy made from the south to the north, passing through more than 50 towns and villages.

"The people were delighted and able to appreciate the show. They would forget their daily routine during the night to enjoy the songs and dances," Hamladji said.

According to UNDP, half of Djibouti's 600,000 peoples are illiterate, three-quarters of them women. While about half of them live in poverty, 10 percent are extremely poor, unable to afford adequate food. Only one-third of children (and only 28 per cent of girls) are enrolled in school. About one in three households lack access to clean water and sanitation.

"The feedback the caravan received from communities shows the expanding possibilities that realisation of the MDGs can bring to all people," Mbaranga Gasarabwe, the UNDP Resident Representative and UN Resident Coordinator, said in a statement. "The caravan has shown us that a participatory approach is the best way to shed light on the human dimensions of poverty and seek ways of ending it."

The MDGs are an ambitious agenda for reducing poverty and improving lives that world leaders agreed on at the Millennium Summit in September 2000.

Its goals, which have time frames, include eradication of poverty and hunger, to achieve universal primary education, promote gender equality and empower women, reduce child mortality, improve maternal health and combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases. Others are to ensure environmental sustainability and develop a global partnership for development.