World on track to halve poverty rate by 2015 but Africa lags well behind: report
WASHINGTON, April 20, 2006 (AFP) -
A worldwide campaign is on track to halve the global poverty rate by 2015, but its success risks bypassing sub-Saharan Africa where child mortality is on the rise, a World Bank-IMF report warned Thursday.
"On current trends, if the developing world can sustain the growth momentum of the past 15 years it will be able to reduce the share of the population living in extreme poverty -- living on less than one dollar a day -- by half between 1990 and 2015," the report said.
The global extreme poverty rate stood at 27.9 percent in 1990 but had been brought down to 21.7 percent by 2002 and is projected to fall to 10.2 percent by 2015.
The World Bank-IMF's third annual Global Monitoring Report was prepared to assess progress toward meeting the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), adopted by 189 world leaders in 2000. They contain the call to halve the world's poverty rate by 2015.
"While we are very far from reaching the MDG goals everywhere, there is encouraging evidence of progress, particularly in some developing countries," said World Bank President Paul Wolfowitz.
He said 50 countries had achieved universal primary school education and pointed to signs of the first decline in HIV/AIDS infection in high-risk countries.
"However, the advances are uneven," Wolfowitz acknowledged. "Many countries in Africa and Latin America are not reducing poverty, and some are slipping behind."
Much of the progress toward meeting the MDG anti-poverty target has been made in China and India, which are enjoying red-hot economic growth.
But the study also found that growth in per capita gross domestic product in low-income countries was higher in 2005 than the average for any five-year period since the late 1970s.
In sub-Saharan Africa per capita growth came to an estimated three percent for the second straight year in 2005.
But those gains have apparently had little effect so far on the region's anti-poverty drive. The sub-Saharan poverty rate is 44 percent, virtually the same as in 1990, according to the report, and is seen remaining above 38 percent in 2015 rather than the regional target of 22.3 percent.
By contrast, east and south Asia are expected to meet their MDG anti-poverty goals.
Among other goals in the global campaign is a commitment to reduce child mortality by two-thirds by 2015.
But the report concluded that most low- and middle-income countries were not making enough headway to reach the target, with the share of children dying before the age of five increasing in 15 countries, primarily those affected by conflict and the HIV virus.
It named 10 countries where child mortality is on the increase, eight of which are in sub-Saharan Africa.
By contrast, nine developing countries have reduced child deaths, according to the report.
Elsewhere it noted varying degrees of progress in education, gender equality, maternal mortality, diseases and water and sanitation.
The report also said "major progress" had been made in 2005 in debt relief for the world's poorest nations.
It cited in particular a plan adopted by the Group of Eight powers to cancel 100 percent of the debt that some of the poorest countries owe the African Development Bank, the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund.
Nineteen countries have already been relieved of repaying about 3.4 billion dollars in debt owed to the IMF.
Overseas development assistance from key industrialized countries rose to 106 billion dollars last year from 80 billion in 2004, according to the report.
Nonetheless, the World Bank and the IMF reminded rich countries to make good on commitments made in 2005 to increase aid, notably a G8 pledge to provide Africa with an additional 25 billion dollars a year by 2010.
"Aid must become more predictable, less fragmented, more closely aligned to countries' needs and targeted to where it will be productively used to advance the Millennium Development Goals," said Mark Sundberg, lead author of the report.
But Max Lawson, policy advisor at Oxfam International, charged that aid from rich countries has been squandered.
"Rich country leaders are making a mockery of their promises to increase aid by squandering public money on expensive technical assistance including overpaid consultants.
"The GMR (Global Monitoring Report) shows that the same amount of money needed to hire a consultant for 100 days would pay 100 teachers for a year."