Asia-Pacific unlikely to meet hunger, child mortality goals

February 17th, 2012 - 8:54 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, Feb 17 (IANS) The Asia-Pacific region has made big gains in reducing poverty, but is unlikely to meet the targets of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) on eradicating hunger, reducing child mortality and improving maternal health, a UN report released here Friday said.

“At the present rate of progress, the region as a whole is unlikely to meet MDGs related to eradicating hunger, reducing child mortality and improving maternal health, among others,” said the latest assessment of regional progress towards the MDGs published by the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP), the Asian Development Bank (ADB) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).

Pointing to south and south-west Asia, the report said many countries in the sub-region started at a farily low base on many indicators.

“For instance, underweight children under five years in India are expected to number over 47 million unless the pace of progress increases,” it said.

Even if India speeds up progress and in 2015, meets the target of halving the 1990 figures, the number of underweight children is expected to be over 32 million.

The report said Asia-Pacific region has already reached the MDG of halving the incidence of poverty, reducing the proportion of people living on less than $1.25 per day from 50 to 22 percent between 1990 and 2009.

It said the region had also achieved MDG indicators ahead of the target year of 2015 in promoting gender equality in education, reducing HIV prevalence, stopping the spread of tuberculosis, increasing forest cover, reducing consumption of ozone-depleting substances and halving the proportion of people without access to safe drinking water.

“However, while strong economic dynamism has driven regional success in poverty reduction, even fast growing countries continue to lose shocking numbers of children before their fifth birthday and thousands of mothers die unnecessarily while giving birth, reveals the report. Over 3 million children died before their fifth birthday in 2010 alone,” the assesment said.

The report reveals striking disparities between and within subregions, countries and even social groups in their progress towards MDGs. While South Asia as a whole is on track for just nine MDG indicators, Sri Lanka is on track for 15 indicators and outperforms the sub-region.

Within countries, disparities between men and women, between social and ethnic groups and between regions hold large sections of the population back from achieving the MDGs, it said.

While the number of people without access to safe drinking water in the region fell from 856 million to 466 million between 1990 and 2008, it still accounts for more than half the total developing world population lacking safe drinking water.

According to the report, countries that have been effective in controlling corruption have better health results.

Outlining an eight-point agenda to fast-track progress towards the health MDGs, the report said it requires addressing the social determinants of health inequities, establishing equitable and responsive primary health care systems and ensuring preventive, promotive and curative mother and child health services.

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