Saturday, June 09, 2007

African countries fail to meet goals

UNITED NATIONS -- Not a single country in sub-Saharan Africa is on target to meet UN goals of cutting extreme poverty by half, ensuring universal primary education and stemming the AIDS pandemic by 2015, a new UN report says.

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon plans to ask leaders of the world's richest countries meeting in Germany this week to step up aid to Africa so the targets could be achieved.

"Despite faster growth and strengthened institutions, the continent remains off track to meeting the world's shared goals for fighting poverty in all its forms," Deputy Secretary-General Asha-Rose Migiro told a news conference Wednesday.

While the proportion of people living on $1 a day has declined from 45.9% to 41.1% since 1999, the report says reaching the target of halving extreme poverty by 2015 requires that the current pace be nearly doubled.

Net aid to sub-Saharan Africa has increased by 2% in real terms since 2005, Migiro said, excluding Nigeria, which received exceptional debt relief this year. The report says donors need to accelerate their plans to increase assistance to maintain the credibility of their 2005 pledge to double aid to Africa by 2010.

The UN report, released at the midway point between the adoption of the goals by world leaders at a summit in 2000 and the 2015 target date, shows some progress in getting more youngsters to go to school but little progress on goals to reduce child and maternal mortality and to halt the AIDS pandemic.

Some sub-Saharan African countries have increased primary school enrollment from 57% in 1999 to 70% in 2005, even with a rapid population growth. But Migiro said "more investments in the sector are needed to meet the goal of primary education" for all children.

According to the new UN statistics, child mortality rates in sub-Saharan Africa have fallen marginally from 185 per 1,000 live births in 1990 to 116 per 1,000 live births in 2005.

A woman in Africa has a 1-in-16 chance of dying in childbirth or from complications in pregnancy, compared with the likelihood of 1-in-3,800 of dying in developed countries, she said.

The report also says the number of people dying from AIDS continues to mount, reaching 2 million in 2006 in sub-Saharan Africa. New HIV cases are rising faster than the rate at which new treatment is offered, it says.

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