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Poverty declining, hunger rising: UN report

September 11, 2008 09:19 IST

The UNDP's millennium development goal report for 2008 has come up with a contradiction of decline in poverty against increased hunger, malnutrition and maternal and infant deaths.

The world, including South Asia, according to the report, is much less poor now than it was in 1990, which means the goal number one of the UN Millennium Development Goals -- eradicate extreme poverty -- is partially within reach. But then the contradiction follows: Goal number two of eradication of hunger, besides goal numbers four, five and six are nowhere within reach.

This means that while the poorer countries are less poor, they are hungrier, their kids more malnourished, their mothers dying as frequently as ever during childbirth and their babies not surviving beyond the age of five.

The new report says that the first goal of halving the number of people whose income is less than $1 a day by 2015 is within reach. But it adds: Higher food prices may push 100 million people deeper into poverty. Most of this increase, it says, will happen in South Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa. Even though poverty figures have improved, people lacking access to food are more in number, it says.

With recent increase in food prices, it says, one billion people will go hungry and another two billion will be undernourished.

While China was able to halve the number of its underweight children, in South Asia almost half the children continued to remain underweight.

In the case of maternal mortality, the report says that the South Asian countries, including India, are doing badly.

While India has a target of reducing mortality to 107 maternal deaths per thousand, it currently has 300-odd deaths for every 1,000 deliveries. It is in the region of 110 and 120 in Tamil Nadu and Kerala, Raj Gautam Mitra, statistician and advisor in UNESCO, pointed out.

UNDP says that its view of the scale and distribution of global poverty may change based on the latest estimates of the cost of living in developing countries, which the World Bank is expected to reveal on the basis of its new poverty line of $1.08 a day.

In India, according to the national poverty line determined by calorific intake, which translates to about Rs 12 a day, the decline has been from 36 per cent in 1990 to 26 per cent in 2005.

The $1 a day estimates also show decline in poverty in India and South Asia, says UNDP economic advisor Seetha Prabhu.

BS Reporter in New Delhi