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Africa Falling Behind UN Goals to Cut Poverty

The United Nations reports real progress is being made around the world in cutting poverty in half by 2015. But, a report launched Monday at U.N. headquarters in Geneva shows sub-Saharan Africa is unlikely to meet the Millennium Development Goals in the next decade.

The United Nations says Asia is making extraordinary progress in lifting millions of people out of poverty. It says the poverty rate in this region has dropped from 28 percent in 1990 to 19 percent today. It says by 2015, the number of people surviving on $1 a day will be cut in half.

Unfortunately, it says, the news out of Africa is not as good. U.N. Deputy Secretary-General Mark Malloch Brown says extreme poverty in sub-Saharan Africa is stuck at around 44 percent.

"Although, even there, there is some evidence now that improved economic performance along with additional donor assistance and debt relief could be laying the ground work to start making significant improvements there, too," he said.

While Africa as a whole is lagging behind other regions, Malloch Brown says, some individual countries are making good progress. He says countries such as Tanzania, Mozambique and Ghana have a solid track record of about five years of strong economic reform, which they are putting to good use.

"We are starting to see real changes in the social indicators. I cited Tanzania as a country where they have re-deployed their savings from debt relief, and also their recent increases in tax revenues from growth, into securing higher school enrollment rates, as has Mozambique," he added. "So, I think what we have now is examples, but not yet a regional trend of where reform is paying off in terms of improvements."

The United Nations designated eight Millennium Development Goals when it launched the program in 1990. The progress report released Monday shows results are patchy.

The report finds great strides are being made toward the goal of achieving universal school enrollment by 2015.

It says 86 percent of children in the developing world are going to primary school. But, in this area, as in others, sub-Saharan Africa lags behind. Although school enrollment has risen dramatically since 1990, the report says, Africa has to make a greater effort to catch up with other regions.

The report says more people now have access to clean drinking water, but, access to improved sanitary facilities is falling behind. The United Nations says poor nations are not making as much progress as they should in combating diseases, such as tuberculosis and AIDS, and, it says, progress on protecting the environment is dismal.