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More than 420 million could live in extreme poverty by 2015, UN warns

More than 420 million could live in extreme poverty by 2015, UN warns

The number of people living on less than $1 a day could exceed 420 million by 2015 if current economic trends continue, a new report by a United Nations agency focussing on trade and development issues warns.

According to the "Least Developed Countries Report 2002: Escaping the Poverty Trap," released today by the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), the number of people living in extreme poverty has doubled over the past 30 years, and is currently about 307 million.

Such poverty can be dramatically slashed by simply doubling the average household living standards of the most poor, the report finds. However, international partnerships are essential if successful efforts are to be made to address poverty in least developed countries.

"Too many impoverished countries are stuck in a trap of poverty that they will not get out of through their own resources," Jeffrey D. Sachs, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan's Special Advisor on the Millennium Development Goals, explained at a press conference yesterday to launch the UNCTAD report at UN Headquarters in New York.

"And unless there is truly international partnership, of the kind that we profess but don't always act upon, the natural dynamics of international market forces underway will not relieve the mass suffering experienced by hundreds of millions of people," he added.

Joining Mr. Sachs at the press conference was Anwarul K. Chowdhury, the UN High Representative for the Least Developed Countries, Landlocked Developing Countries and Small Island Developing States. He said that the timing of the report's release was particularly significant because of its proximity to the summit of the Group of Eight richest and most powerful countries, scheduled for 26-27 June in Kananaskis, Canada.

As that meeting would be focusing on Africa's development, the analysis in the report on Africa's least developed countries would be important to participants, Mr. Chowdhury noted.