India’s push will reduce South Asia’s poverty: World Bank

April 9th, 2008 - 11:34 am ICT by admin  

By Arun Kumar
Washington, April 9 (IANS) With India’s rapid growth over the past decade contributing to most of the progress in South Asia, the region will likely reduce extreme poverty by half by 2015, one of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), says a new World Bank-IMF report. But most countries in South Asia will fall short on the MDGs, a set of eight globally agreed development goals with a due date of 2015, warns Global Monitoring Report: MDGs and the Environment - Agenda for Inclusive and Sustainable Development.

Though much of the world, including South Asia, is set to cut extreme poverty in half by then, prospects are gravest for the goals of reducing child and maternal mortality, with serious shortfalls also likely in primary school completion, nutrition, and sanitation goals.

While most of the global poverty reduction between 1990 and 2004 took place in East Asia and Pacific, South Asia is likely to contribute the most to global poverty reduction in the next decade, says the report released ahead of the World Bank-International Monetary Fund (IMF) meetings here this weekend.

While much progress has been made in reducing under-five malnutrition, South Asia will likely not reach the goal of halving its incidence, it said.

South Asia has the highest incidence of child malnutrition; the child malnutrition rate in India is double the African average. The risk of malnutrition increases with high food prices.

In maternal health, the percentage of births attended by skilled personnel is low in South Asia (41 percent) and Sub-Saharan Africa (46 percent). South Asia is also off track for reaching the MDG child mortality target.

In the field of education, the world is likely to miss the goal of universal primary school completion but come close, the report said. However, sizable shortfalls are likely in South Asia. Most countries in South Asia are off track to meet the primary education target.

The gap in primary enrolment rates between boys and girls in South Asia is narrowing, but rates are still lower for girls than for boys. Prospects for achieving gender parity in tertiary education are less promising.

The regional shortfalls in South Asia in part reflect the lower base it started from. The literacy rate for young women in South Asia aged 15-24 has increased from 48 percent in 1990 to 65 percent in 2005.

In South Asia, where female primary school completion rates are already significantly lower than male completion rates, the difference in the likelihood of completion for a boy in the richest quintile compared with a girl in the poorest is particularly acute.

In environment, South Asia is on track to meet the access to clean water target but off track to provide improved sanitation, the report said, noting the region accounts for 37 percent of the global burden of disease caused by indoor air pollution from burning biomass fuels.

Outdoor air pollution places both adults and children at risk. This is an acute problem in urban areas of fast-growing economies like India.

India, which is third among the top 10 emitters of industrial water pollution, with emissions of over 1.5 million kg per day, will contribute much to new global energy demand in the next two decades, the report said.

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