Parts of Asia-Pacific region lag behind Africa in reaching antipoverty goals – UN

8 October 2007 – A new United Nations report assessing progress in the Asia-Pacific region on reaching the antipoverty Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) paints a mixed picture of progress in some parts of the region even as others lag behind Sub-Saharan Africa and Latin America.

Released today in Bangkok and Manila, the report states that the region is well on track and ahead of its peers in Latin America and Sub-Saharan Africa to reduce extreme poverty by half, attain universal education, and achieve gender parity in education by the target year 2015.

But Asia and the Pacific accounts for about two thirds of the world's underweight children. More than one in four children under the age of five are underweight. The rates in many Asian countries exceed those of Sub-Saharan Africa, according to the report.

The region is also moving too slowly in reducing child mortality – every year six out of every 100 children do not live to see their fifth birthday, a rate almost double that of Latin American and the Caribbean. The most serious problems are in South Asia where most countries are off track on reducing child mortality.

Maternal deaths in Asia and the Pacific account for almost half of the global total, according to the report, The Millennium Development Goals: Progress in Asia and the Pacific 2007. The region's overall maternal mortality ratio, at over 300 per 100,000 live births, is more than 30 percent higher than in Latin America and the Caribbean.

The region's greatest challenges lie in addressing the issues of child mortality, malnutrition, improving maternal health and providing safe drinking water and sanitation facilities, said the report – a joint publication by the UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (UNESCAP), the Asian Development Bank (ADB), and the UN Development Programme (UNDP).

“The 2007 MDG progress report gives us an indication of what the region stands to gain if we intensify our efforts to meet the MDGs. We need to focus on those countries that are moving slowly or not making progress, and within those areas concentrate on improving the lives of the most vulnerable,” said Haishan Fu, Chief, Statistics Development Section, UNESCAP.

The report points out if the countries in the region that are off track were able to speed up and meet the MDG targets by 2015, then about 196 million more people would be lifted out of extreme poverty, 23 million more children would no longer suffer from hunger and nearly 1 million more children would survive beyond their fifth birthday.

The other key areas where Asia-Pacific region is making slow progress are provision of access to safe drinking water and basic sanitation facilities. Across the region, over 560 million people in rural areas lack access to improved water sources; over 1.5 billion are living without basic sanitation facilities, nearly three-quarters of the global total.

The report also warns that environmental pressures – arising from land degradation, poor water management, rising pollution in urban areas, CO2 emission contributing to climate change and other factors – could push more people into poverty.

The eight MDGs range from halving extreme poverty to reducing child mortality, halting spread of HIV and AIDS, providing universal primary education and providing access to clean drinking water and sanitation facilities – all by the target year of 2015.

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