Without drastic measures the world will fail to meet its targets for reducing poverty, according to a major UN report released Wednesday. The cost will be many millions of preventable deaths over the next 10 years.
Despite progress globally, many countries are falling behind, especially in sub-Saharan Africa, where the HIV/AIDS pandemic is dramatically reducing life expectancy and creating financial and social burdens that slow development.
The stark findings contained in the 2005 Human Development Report were presented to world leaders a week before they meet in New York for a UN summit to review progress toward the Millennium Development Goals. The goals include halving extreme poverty, reducing child deaths by two-thirds and achieving universal primary education by 2015.
The goals "are a promissory note, written by 189 governments to the world's poor people," said Kevin Watkins, the development report's chief author. "That note falls due in less than 10 years time, and without the required investment and political will, it will come back stamped 'insufficient funds."'
Since the UN Development Fund's first report in 1990, more than 130 million people have been lifted out of poverty, according to the 388-page report. Life expectancy has increased by 2 years in developing countries. There are 2 million fewer child deaths annually and 30 million more children in school.
Yet 18 countries - 12 of them in Africa and the rest in central-eastern Europe - registered lower scores on the UNDP's human development index than in 1990.
The index ranks 177 countries based on key indicators such as income, life expectancy, education from 2003. Norway tops the list, while Niger is last.
Despite increasing global prosperity, more than 1 billion people still survive on less than US$1 a day, 10.7 million children die before their fifth birthday and 115 million are not in school, the reports says.
HIV/AIDS has inflicted the single greatest reversal in human development, claiming 3 million lives in 2003 with another 5 million left infected. South Africa, which has more people living with HIV than any other country, has dropped 35 places on the development index since 1990.
Life expectancy in Botswana has dropped 20 years since the 1970s to just 36. A person living in Zambia has less chance of reaching 30 than one born in England at the dawn of the industrial revolution in 1840.
In many instances the gap between rich and poor is also widening, the report said. One-fifth of humanity live in countries where many think nothing of spending US$2 on a cappuccino. Another fifth survive on less than US$1 a day.
In many of the countries that are making progress, it is only the wealthiest that are benefiting. The gap between child mortality rates among rich and poor is increasing in countries like Ghana, Zambia and Uganda.
In India, the death rate in children under 5 is 50 per cent higher for girls than boys.
Such disparities present one of the greatest barriers to progress, Watkins argues. At the current rate, 115 countries with a combined population of almost 2.1 billion are off track by more than a generation on at least one millennium goal.
Source: China Daily