Asia-Pacific not living up to its potential in battles against hunger, disease - UN

18 August 2004

The “enormous challenge” facing the Asia-Pacific region is not a lack of food and other resources but ensuring that the abundance that is readily available reaches everybody, especially those most in need, a senior United Nations official said today.

“The region as a whole, for example, produces more food than it needs, yet millions of people go hungry and malnourished,” Kim Hak-Su, Executive Secretary of the UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (UNESCAP), told an audience of young people attending a Model UN conference in Beijing this week.

Child and maternal mortality rates, the prevailing lack of education and health problems such as HIV/AIDS are a “sad testimony” to a region’s failure to live up to its potential as the dynamic segment of the world economy, he said.

“The root cause of the failure I believe lies in our inability to ensure that the fruits of economic growth reach those that need them most - the poor, children, women and the marginalized,” he added.

While some 200 million Asia-Pacific people came out of poverty in the late 1990s, there is growing evidence to suggest that the entrenched poor form a difficult target to reach, Mr. Kim said.

“We are learning that we have to work along a broad front, as enunciated by the Millennium Declaration, to go beyond income poverty and meet the challenges of human poverty,” said Mr. Kim. “As we delve more deeply a disturbing picture emerges reminding us that there is an enormous challenge ahead.”

The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), adopted at the 2000 UN Millennium summit, set an ambitious list of eight targets, including halving extreme poverty and hunger and slashing child and maternal mortality rates, all by 2015.


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