Sub-Saharan Africa lags, rest of world on track to meet poverty goals – UN report

9 June 2005
Jose Antonio Ocampo (L) and Thoraya Obaid

Asia's remarkable victories in its war on poverty have put the world, except for sub-Saharan Africa, on target to meet the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), designed by a United Nations summit five years ago to reduce extreme poverty and other forms of deprivation by 2015.

The number of people living in extreme poverty has fallen by 130 million worldwide since 1990, even with overall growth of more than 800 million in the developing regions since then, according to The Millennium Development Goals Report 2005, an interim survey launched by Secretary-General Kofi today in New York.

Speaking to correspondents following the launch, Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs, José Antonio Ocampo said hat contrary to global trends, extreme poverty had actually increased in sub-Saharan Africa since the 1990s. And while about one billion people in the developing world still live on less than a dollar day, in Sub-Saharan Africa, that income actually fell, from 62 cents a day in 1990 to 60 cents in 2001.

Describing the Secretary-General's report, with its comprehensive charts and graphs, as "user-friendly", Mr. Ocampo, who was joined by the Executive Director of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), Thoraya Obaid, said it was the most authoritative evaluation of progress toward meeting the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) globally and regionally.

By 2015, the poorest countries in Africa are likely to have a rising proportion of those living in extreme poverty, lacking a primary school education and dying before the age of 5, the MDGs report says. It goes on to detail the trends affecting the achievement of the other Goals in primary, education, promoting gender equality, reducing child mortality, improving maternal health, combating HIV/AIDS, ensuring environmental sustainability, and promoting global partnerships for development.

Mr. Ocampo said the report also mentioned some critical factors, such as conflict and natural disaster, that exacerbated poverty and hunger, he added. Facing conflict was a significant part of the war against poverty. Overcoming conflict was crucial to overcoming poverty given the fact that the largest proportion of conflict took place in the poorest countries.

On the issue of trade, he said the report pointed out several positive trends, particularly the dynamic growth of trade and the advances made by the middle-income countries in the international trading order. Contrary to the specific measures taken by industrial countries to allow greater access of the goods of the least developed countries to their markets, a growing proportion of exports from least developed countries were not entering duty free into the developed countries, reflecting not only harmful regulations but also their weak supply capabilities.

The major issues now on the table was the fact that agricultural subsidies in the industrialized world continued to be at a very high level, and that major manufactures of interest to developed countries continued to have much higher targets than what was typical in international trade today, Mr. Ocampo said.

Noting that gender cut across the MDGs as a whole, Ms. Obaid said some progress had been made in fighting poverty, promoting the rights of women and improving maternal health. Some success had also been made in combating HIV/AIDS.

An alarm clock of disease, disability and death was ticking, however, and the international community would have to go along way before it could rest, knowing that it transformed the world. Each minute, each day, nine persons contracted HIV, six persons died of AIDS and one woman died bringing life into the world, she said.

The report shows that empowering women is a prerequisite to overcoming hunger, poverty and disease, she said. Gender equality and reproductive and maternal health free women to pursue opportunities in education and work, giving them the power to make decisions that improve their families, communities and nations. "This helps attain other development goals," said Ms. Obaid.


Video of press briefing [48mins]


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