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UN Says Poverty Worsening in 54 Countries - 2003-07-09


This year's Human Development Report tracks progress made by 175 countries on a variety of development goals, including reducing poverty, achieving universal primary education, and halting the spread of HIV-AIDS.

The report warns that while illiteracy and child mortality rates have been dramatically reduced in some of the world's most impoverished nations, 54 countries are actually poorer today than a decade ago.

The author of the report, Sakiko Fukuda-Parr, says most of these countries are in Sub-Saharan Africa and the Commonwealth of Independent States.

Ms. Fukuda-Parr said, "One of the reasons this has happened is, in part, because of the economic decline and because of HIV-AIDS. You see how Botswana has caught up with Costa Rica by 1990, but then it goes precipitously down. Life expectancy has gone precipitously down in Botswana in part because of HIV-AIDS."

But Ms. Fukuda-Parr says AIDS is by no means the only problem facing poor countries. Other factors, such as declines in primary school enrollment and increases in child mortality rates, will also pull a country's development ranking down.

Good government and democracy, Ms. Fukuda-Parr says, are important to a country's development, but she says other factors are also important.

Ms. Fukuda-Parr added, "Before you get growth going, you still need to invest pretty heavily in education and health. You still need to invest heavily in infrastructure. You need to invest in agricultural technology to improve productivity. These are basically public interventions. Public interventions are in fact necessary precisely to set the preconditions for market-led economic growth."

In addition to calling for more aid to developing nations, the Human Development Report says that developing and industrialized countries alike should be held accountable for what they are doing to eliminate poverty.

According to the report, Norway ranks highest on the human development index followed by Iceland and Sweden. The lowest human-development rates are found in Burkina Faso, Niger and Sierra Leone. Midway through the list of 175 countries are the Philippines, Maldives, and Turkmenistan.

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