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World’s Poorest Countries See Some Growth

World’s Poorest Countries See Some Growth But Poverty Rates Persist – UN Report

New York, Jun 19 2006 7:00PM

An increase in development aid since 2002 has raised health and education standards and hastened gender equality among the world’s poorest nations but overall poverty rates are not improving, according to a new United Nations report released today.

The 2006 annual progress report of the Secretary-General on the implementation of the Programme of Action for the Least Developed Countries (LDCs) adds that domestic reforms and a revival of commodity prices have underpinned strong economic growth in many of those States. A number of them also benefited from a steep rise in oil prices.

But despite signs of progress, extreme poverty has deepened, and overall social indicators remain cause for concern, the report warns.

Chronic poverty continues to be aggravated by diseases such as HIV/AIDS and by environmental degradation, says the report, which the Secretary-General submitted to the Economic and Social Council.

In addition, the positive impact of growth in many cases is mitigated by high birth rates and an unequal distribution of resources. Climate change is already taking a toll on many low-lying or island LDCs, and is likely to pose a growing challenge to development in upcoming years, the report notes.

“The message we are getting from the least developed countries is that they are working hard to take advantage of economic opportunities and to use effectively the assistance from international partners,” said Anwarul Chowdhury, the UN’s High Representative for the LDCs, Landlocked Developing Countries and Small Island Developing States.

“It is important that the international community stays the course on promised aid, debt relief and tariff-free access for LDC exports, as populations in these countries continue to struggle to escape extreme poverty.” Of the 50 LDCs, of which 34 are in sub-Saharan Africa, 15 in Asia and the Pacific and one – Haiti – in the Western hemisphere, more than half recorded average annual growth rates of 4 per cent or better during 2000-2004. Foreign direct investment has generally been on the rise in these countries in general.

Trend lines for primary school education and gender quality in education, adult literacy, under-five and access to sanitation and clean water are largely positive, the report states. In contrast, seven of these nations experienced declining life expectancy, often in countries affected by AIDS.

ENDS

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