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As Annan arrives for G-8 Summit, UN says African development facing setbacks

As Annan arrives for G-8 Summit, UN says African development facing setbacks

Kofi Annan (left) with Canadian Health Minister, & African leaders
As the United Nations released new data on setbacks facing Africa, Secretary-General Kofi Annan arrived in Kananaskis, Canada, today to attend the Group of Eight (G-8) Summit, where he is expected to raise the issue of the continent's development.

In a letter to the leaders of the G-8 released in advance of the two-day meeting, the Secretary-General called on them to support Africa and strengthen world social and economic security. He reinforced this point on Tuesday in remarks to reporters, highlighting the importance of discussing the New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD) at the Kananaskis meeting.

The UN Development Programme (UNDP) and the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF), meanwhile, released a report today in Calgary showing that only 10 of the 45 sub-Saharan African countries are on track to achieve the Millennium Development Goals set by world leaders meeting at the UN in 2000.

Prepared at the request of the G-8, the report details obstacles facing Africa in terms of meeting the goals, which include halving hunger and poverty, achieving universal primary education and gender equality, and halting the spread of HIV/AIDS by 2015.

According to the report, Africa has the highest number of poor people, with nearly half of its population of 300 million living on less than $1 a day. "If current trends continue," the report warns, "Africa will be the only region where the number of poor people will be higher in 2015 than in 1990."

On the positive side, the study finds gains in primary education in certain countries, including Malawi, Uganda, Benin, Mali, Niger and Swaziland. It points out that "there is no good reason why universal primary education should not yet be a practical reality" throughout the region, given that the goal requires no new technological breakthroughs and enjoys consensus backing.

While there are islands of hope in the region, much more needs to be accomplished, according to the report. "We must understand that African countries cannot do it alone," said UNDP Administrator Mark Malloch Brown, who added that the G-8 meeting offered "a unique opportunity to help start turning the promise of the Millennium Declaration into reality."