Singapore, Oct 8 (UNI) As Asia and Pacific region surges ahead on many of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), there still remains uneven progress within countries and many of the less developed economies need global support to plug some of their key development gaps, says a new report released today.
The report 'The Millennium Development Goals: Progress in Asia and the Pacific 2007' states that the region is well on track and ahead of its peers in Latin America and Sub-Saharan Africa to reduce extreme poverty by half, attain universal education and achieve gender parity in education by the target year 2015.
The MDG 2007 report was produced through a regional partnership among Asian Development Bank (ADB), United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (UN-ESCAP).
''We are at the half-way mark towards the target date of 2015 and have a historic opportunity to change the lives of millions living in abject poverty,'' says Shiladitya Chatterjee, Head of the Poverty Unit in ADB adding that there is a need to adopt inclusive strategies to ensure benefits of growth are shared equitably to sustain global growth and prosperity.
The report says if the countries in the region that are off-track 'either slow or regressing' were able to speed up and meet the MDG targets by 2015, then some 196 million people in the region would be lifted out of grinding poverty, 23 million more children would no longer suffer from hunger and nearly one million children would survive beyond their fifth birthday.
''The 2007 MDG Update gives us an indication of what the region stands to gain if we intensify our efforts to meet the MDGs. We need to focus on those economies that are moving slowly or not making progress, and within those areas concentrate on improving the lives of the most vulnerable,'' says Haishan Fu, Chief Statistics Development Section of UN-ESCAP.
There are major concerns of disparities in meeting the poverty and non-income poverty targets of the MDGs. The region's greatest failures lie in addressing the issues of child mortality, nutrition, improving maternal health, and providing safe drinking water and sanitation facilities.
The Asia and Pacific region accounts for about 65 per cent of the world's underweight children, as 28 per cent of the region's under-five children are underweight and many Asian countries have exceeding prevalence rates of Sub-Saharan Africa. The region is moving too slowly to reduce child mortality. It still has 60 deaths per thousand live births, nearly double that of Latin America and the Caribbean.
The most serious problems are in South Asia, where most countries are off-track, particularly child and maternal health indicators.
The region's overall maternal mortality ratio, at over 300 per 1,00,000 live births, is more than 30 per cent higher than in Latin America and the Caribbean, and maternal deaths in Asia and the Pacific account for almost half of the global total.
The report warns that environmental pressures arising out of land degradation, poor water management (including flooding), rising pollution in urban areas, carbon dioxide emission contributing to climate change, and other factors could push more people into poverty.
The other key areas where the Asia and Pacific region is making slow progress are provisions of access to safe drinking water and basic sanitation facilities. Across the region, over 560 million in the rural areas lack access to improved water sources. The region has over 1.5 billion people without basic sanitation facilities, or 75 per cent of the world's population that have no access to such service.
While many countries in the region have resources to speed up and meet the MDGs, the poor and the weak states do not have funds to meet all their investment needs.
''We need to build a global partnership for development to meet the investment gaps through channeling more funds better targeted to those areas, subsectors and people actually in need,'' says Omar Noman, Deputy Director of UNDP Regional Center for Asia and the Pacific.
Another way to meet the investment needs of the poor economies is to provide them with market access to developed markets, the report says.
It adds that preferential access in trade underpinned by greater economic and technical cooperation among developing economies can also help the weaker economies take advantage of global trade.
The eight Millennium Development Goals, which range from halving extreme poverty to reducing child mortality, halting the spread of HIV/AIDS, providing universal primary education, and providing access to clean drinking water and sanitation facilities by the target date of 2015, formed a blueprint agreed to by all the world's nations and the leading global development institutions.