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Nations strive to reach Millennium Goals

Mabule Mokhine (right) and gardener Doreen Khumalo of The Greenhouse Project in downtown Johannesburg.

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STEVE CHIOTAKIS: The United Nations has had a goal for nearly a decade to, among other things, help cut extreme poverty around the world, part of its so-called Millennium Development Goals. And a recent report shows there's been some success. This week, world leaders will get an update on many of the goals as they meet in New York. They're hoping the global economic downturn hasn't derailed what they'd set out to do.

From Johannesburg, reporter Gretchen Wilson has more.


GRETCHEN WILSON: In one corner of this inner-city park, there are rows of raised garden beds. Mabule Mokhine points to leafy green vegetables.

MABULE MOKHINE: Chard, spinach... And I see now, because it is spring, there is strawberry. That is strawberry

Mokhine is with The Greenhouse Project, a non-profit that teaches city dwellers how to grow food on their balconies and rooftops. Not because it's cool. Because they're hungry.

MOKHINE: The incidence of HIV and AIDS, it just left a number of households being run by children, you know.

The first Millennium Development Goal is to cut in half the number of people in extreme hunger and poverty by 2015. At this rate, most countries in southern Africa aren't going to make it.

Josee Koch is with the Regional Hunger and Vulnerability Programme.

JOSEE KOCH: The commitment and effort is there. It's just that the problem is so huge.

Still, countries around the world have made headway on the goals -- to provide basic education for all boys and girls alike, to curb the spread of HIV/AIDS, and to reduce child and maternal mortality rates. The summit buzz is about the billions of dollars needed to go further.

But in the wake of the global financial crisis, the question is: Who's going to pay for it?

KOCH: The only way forward is to really make sure that trade does get more equal.

Many in southern Africa say they don't want charity as much as they want investment, access to markets, and loans for their small businesses. This kind of economic development doesn't depend on donations, which can be squandered by dishonest governments. And though the U.N. doesn't have a big stick to force governments to meet the goals, citizens do.

Nokothula Magudulela is with Amnesty International.

NOKOTHULA MAGUDULELA: People can march. They can write petitions. They can litigate. People need to raise their voices at their local level.

That kind of leverage will be crucial in the next five years, as countries strive to achieve the Millennium Development Goals -- the biggest coordinated effort in human history to reduce extreme poverty.

In Johannesburg, I'm Gretchen Wilson for Marketplace.

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