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Countries Falling Short of Social, Economic Goals

11 February 2000

Press Release




NEW YORK, 11 February (Department of Economic and Social Affairs) -- Many countries are falling short of achieving internationally agreed goals in the social and economic sectors. In Africa, most countries are currently far from reaching the goals identified and agreed upon by governments at the series of United Nations conferences convened by the United Nations during the 1990s. Asian and Oceanic countries fare better, but tend to have large intra-regional variations than other major regions. Latin America and the Caribbean is the developing region in which countries are closest to achieving conference goals.

These results are from a new report, Charting the Progress of Populations, released by the Population Division of the Department of Economic and Social Affairs. Charting the Progress of Populations is one of the background documents before the Commission on Social Development, as it considers its contribution to the special session of the General Assembly on the Implementation of the Outcome of the World Summit for Social Development and Further Initiatives, to be held in Geneva in June.

The report provides a concise analytic and visual summary on 12 key socio- economic indicators related to the goals agreed upon by governments at the global conferences of the 1990s. Special attention has been given to the International Conference on Population and Development, the World Summit for Social Development, the Fourth World Conference on Women and the Second United Nations Conference on Human Settlements (Habitat II).

These key indicators are: Total population; access to basic health services; family planning (contraceptive prevalence); underweight prevalence among pre-school children; maternal mortality; infant and under 5 mortality; life expectancy at birth; gross enrolment for primary and secondary school enrolment combined; adult illiteracy; access to safe water and sanitation; and floor area per person.

These indicators were selected for their relevance to six of the main themes of the global conferences: population, with special emphasis on reproductive health and family planning services; primary health care; nutrition; basic education; drinking water and sanitation; and shelter. A particular effort was made to show where countries currently stand and how close they are to the agreed goals.

Some of the other key findings from the report are as follows:

-- Universal access to health services is available in only about one third of countries in the world. Access is most limited in Africa where in two out of every five countries, most of the population lacks access.

-- In countries where the level of contraceptive use is low, many women are not using contraception, even though they say they want to stop childbearing or delay the next child.

-- Underweight prevalence among children is a worse problem in Asia than it is in Africa. In several Asian countries, over half of pre-school children are underweight.

-- Maternal mortality shows a wider disparity among countries than for any other health and development indicator.

-- More than 90 per cent of African countries have fallen short of the goals for the year 2000 for infant and child mortality.

-- Only one third of the countries have a school enrolment ratio close to the conference goals of universal access to education. The gender gap in education remains large in many countries, especially in Africa and Asia.

-- A large proportion of the population in the developing world lives without access to safe water and sanitation.

-- Housing conditions tend to be more crowded in African countries than in other regions.

For more information, or to obtain a copy of the report, please contact the Office of the Director, Population Division, United Nations Secretariat, United Nations, New York 10017, telephone (212) 963-3179, or fax to (212) 963- 2147.


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