Friday, July 01, 2005

[MDGs] Poverty will kill two million children : UN


Over the next decade, two million children will die, 40 million people will be without safe drinking water, and five million children will be forced out of school if current trends continue in 14 countries across Asia and the Pacific that are among the world’s least developed, a UN report said today.

Better access to international markets could prevent this, said the report from United Nations Development Program.The grim forecasts in the UNDP report sought to focus attention on countries ranging from Afghanistan and Nepal to Bangladesh and Samoa. Experts say these countries are often ignored amid spotlights on African poverty and the image of a new prosperity sweeping Asian nations like China and India.

“It seeks to explode a certain myth – that Asia is a happening place,” said Paranjoy Guha Thakurta, a consultant to the report. “The objective is to draw the attention of the international community toward these 14 least developed countries that are often ignored… I’m not saying: Ignore Africa. I’m saying: Do not ignore Asia.”

The report, which was released ahead of the Group of Eight summit of industrialised nations to be held in Scotland next week, suggested the removal of import duties and other trade restrictions against these countries to help them fight poverty.The UN report, released in New Delhi, said the 14 countries – Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Cambodia, Kiribati, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Maldives, Burma, Nepal, Samoa, Solomon Islands, East Timor, Tuvalu and Vanuatu - accounted for some 260 million people.

The report highlighted the contrasts in the Asia-Pacific region, where it said the poorest nations were often ignored because faster growing nations made the continent’s overall development averages look good.“China and India, together accounting for nearly 40% of the world’s population and ranking among the fastest-growing countries, account for most of this progress,” the report said. “Due to the tyranny of averages, the relatively poor performance of the Asia-Pacific least developed countries gets overshadowed.”

The document painted a grim picture of these nations: Afghanistan’s forests are likely to be gone in 20 years, and in Bangladesh, about half of all citizens aged 15-24 will be illiterate in 2015.“The dynamism of Asia represents both a challenge and an opportunity. It could increase inequalities that contribute to growing tensions,” the report said.As a solution, it suggested import tariffs be removed for products from these countries, where most exports are labour-intensive and bigger sales would help workers directly.

© Thomas Crosbie Media, 2005.