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UN Says Africa Lags in Fighting Poverty - 2004-06-15

A top U.N. official says at its current rate of development, it will take Africa more than 140 years to cut its poverty by half.

The head of the U.N. Development Program, Mark Malloch-Brown, calls 2005 the make or break year for the U.N. Millennium Development goals, which call for cutting the poverty rate in half and providing basic education for all children by 2015.

He says a minimum of 10 years is needed for countries to create higher growth and acquire the investment needed to install basic services such as health, education, water, and sanitation.

Mr. Malloch-Brown says the outlook for Africa is particularly bleak. Current trends, he says, indicate that Africa will not meet the goal of halving poverty until 2147, rather than 2015.

"If we could put in place the policies to achieve seven- to eight-percent growth per year in Africa over the next decade," he said, "and if we could get levels of public investment that we have been calling for in health and education, basic infrastructure and some other issues, all at a fraction of the cost of the Iraq war for a year, we could shift that 2147 date back to something very close to 2015."

By comparison, the UNDP chief notes that East Asia is ahead of the Millennium Development target. And he says India is making such significant progress in reducing poverty, that it is more than likely to reach the poverty reduction goal on time.

"In Asia, where growth is combined with a real focus on targeting poverty and on addressing issues of inequality, the results are much more dramatic than in countries where you try to do it through just growth alone," he said.

As part of the plan to move the development goals forward, Mr. Malloch-Brown is calling for a doubling of International Overseas Development Assistance from the current $54 billion a year to more than $100 billion.

In the coming months, he says there will be a huge mobilization by governments, private companies, international and private aid agencies to support the goals.