Millennium Development Goals in Bhutan


Bhutan continues to make significant and sustained progress in achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) by 2015. The MDGs relating to poverty, educational attainments, maternal and child health, high-risk diseases and environmental sustainability are in themselves high-priority themes in Bhutan’s Five Year Plans. In addition, significant investments in the social sectors of health and education by the government and development partners have greatly contributed to overall progress toward attaining the MDGs.

1. Eradicate extreme poverty and hunger
Perhaps the clearest portrait of Bhutan’s development endeavor is painted by the recent decrease in poverty across the country. While more than 23% of the population lived below the poverty line in 2007, this number dropped by almost half, to just 12% in 2012, thus achieving the MDG target set at 15 % (Bhutan Living Standards Survey 2012 Report).

2. Achieve universal primary education
Significant progress also has been made since 2008 toward overall education enrollment in the country (primary to tertiary), particularly with support from UNICEF. The Gross Primary Enrollment Ratio, targeted at 100% by 2015, reached 96% in 2012. Almost all students (98.5%) reach Class VII, showing a clear improvement from the figure of 85.4% in 2007. This is mainly due to more girls having the opportunity to stay in school.

3. Promote gender equality and empower women

The achievement of complete gender parity at primary and secondary levels was achieved by 2009. Demonstrating this, the ratio of girls in tertiary education has risen sharply, from 54% (2007) to 71% (2012)—and the number continues to rise. However, under-representation of women in the Parliament and weak participation in national decision making processes continue to need attention in order to reach gender equality targets by 2015.

4. Reduce child mortality

Bhutan is on track to achieve the MDG target to reduce under-five mortality rates by two thirds. Between 1990 and 2012, mortality of under-five children has been reduced by half: the mortality rate was 84 per 1000 live births in 2000, and 69 per 1000 live births in 2010.

5. Improve maternal health

Bhutan has reduced maternal mortality rates by about nearly three-quarters between 1990 and 2012.  Most maternal deaths are due to post-partum hemorrhage occurring either at home or because women arrive too late at hospitals which necessitates easy access to emergency obstetric care services.  Work needs to be done in ensuring health personnel attend all births.  While significant progress has been made in the attendance of trained health personnel in births, from just 19% in 1990 to 69% in 2012, work remains to be done, especially in rural and remote areas.

6. Combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases

The support and contribution of WHO have been significant in helping to improve Bhutan’s health system. Bhutan has one of the most comprehensive primary health care systems in the world, with 90% of the population having access to health care services. The rate of immunization has risen from 90% in 2007 to 94.4% in 2012, close to meeting the MDG target of 95%.

Given the low population base, the rising trend of HIV infection is an alarming development. By June 2014, a total of 380 cases had been detected. UNAIDS estimates that more than 1,100 people could be infected in Bhutan. The total numbers of HIV cases detected remains small in global comparison and the prevalence is estimated to be around 0.15% of the national population.

Malaria, once a major public health burden no longer poses a serious threat: only 194 cases of malaria were detected in 2012. The mortality from malarial infection has reduced from 63 in 1993 to only one death in 2012.

Tuberculosis incidence and cases have actually increased from 720 cases in 1990 to 1156 cases in 2012. With the rising HIV/AIDS prevalence, there is a danger that TB incidences and related fatality may continue to increase as well.

7. Ensure environmental sustainability

Bhutan continues to be a global leader in environmental policy and conservation, with support from development partners like UNDP. More than 70% of the country is covered by forest, and over half of the land area is designated as protected areas and biological corridors. Due to dense forests, Bhutan is one of the carbon sinks in the world and has negative CO2 emissions per capita.

Bhutan is also an early achiever with regard to its targets for the provisioning of clean water, approaching the near-universal coverage by 2015. In 2012, 94% of Bhutanese had access to clean drinking water.

Read more about MDGs in Bhutan on the UNDP website.