Aarti Dhar

NEW DELHI: Major advances in the fight against poverty and hunger have begun to slow down or even reverse as a result of the global economic and food crises, says a United Nations annual progress report on more than halfway to the 2015 deadline for achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

Progress against extreme poverty in South Asia — slower than in most other regions of the world between 1999 and 2005 — is in danger of disappearing altogether under pressure of global economic contraction and lost jobs. On the brighter side, 11 per cent gains were achieved in primary school enrolment between 2000 and 2007. This is more important for girls who moved up from 84 enrolments per 100 boys in 1999 to 95 in 2007.

Drop in TB cases

There was also a drop in tuberculosis prevalence from 543 cases per 1,00,000 people in 1999 to 268 cases in 2007. Countries in South Asia have largely escaped the increase in hunger rates seen in other parts since 2007. India has even made inroads on hunger.But holding steady against hunger is not a satisfactory option in a region which is second only to the sub-Saharan Africa in the proportion of undernourished people (21 per cent in 2008) and ranks the worst in the proportion of under five-year-olds who are underweight (48 per cent in 2007), points out the report released on Tuesday.

South Asia has achieved its MDG target of cutting to half the proportion of people in 1990 without access to water, but is lagging behind in providing access to safe sanitation.

More In: Today's Paper