An ambitious goal to eradicate extreme poverty in the world was thwarted by the recent upward trend in food prices, the United Nations said Friday in a report reviewing its Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), reported dpa.
Poverty and hunger worsened in Africa, while China - with a population of 1.3 billion - was praised for pulling an estimated 400 million out of poverty.
Mixed results were reported in achieving universal primary education, gender equality, reducing child and maternal mortality, stopping the spread of HIV/AIDS, and, ensuring environmental sustainability.
The UN General Assembly has called for achieving eight MDGs by 2015, and while the latest report cited strong progress in some areas it wasn't enough to meet the target date.
Heads of state and delegates will meet September 25 to review the MDGs, identify gaps and map out steps to remain on track by 2015.
"We face nothing less than a development emergency," UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said about poverty reduction, ahead of the MDGs meeting later this month.
"Halfway to the target date of 2015, it is clear that we are not on track to meet the goals, especially in Africa. And the new global challenges - an economic slowdown, high food and fuel prices, and climate change - threaten to reverse the progress we have made."
The report said, "The world has made strong and sustained progress in reducing extreme poverty, but this is now being undercut by higher process, particularly of food and oil, and the global economic slowdown."
It said there was "little progress" in halving extreme poverty and hunger in sub-Saharan Africa.
While the number of people living in extreme poverty in East Asia dropped from nearly 80 per cent to 20 per cent since 2005, it has remained constant at about 50 per cent in sub-Saharan Africa.
The recent sharp increase in food prices would mean that an estimated 1 billion people would go hungry while another 2 billion will be undernourished, the report said.
With regard to education, sub-Saharan African countries have so far reached 71 per cent access to universal primary education, compared to 90 per cent in Southeast Asia. About 38 million children in sub-Saharan Africa are still out of school.
One of the greatest disparities between sub-Saharan Africa and the rest of the world remained in the area of improving maternal health. One of 22 African women risks dying of preventable pregnancy diseases and during childbirth while the ratio is 1 in 7,300 women in the developed world.
In Niger, one in 17 women risks dying of pregnancy-related causes compared with one in 17,400 in Sweden.
The report said 1 million African children are left motherless and vulnerable because of maternal death.
The vast majority of the estimated 33 million people living with HIV are in sub-Saharan Africa and 60 per cent of them are adult women, the report said. There were 2.7 million HIV infections in 2007, down from 3 million in 2001.
Malaria killed an estimated 1 million people a year worldwide - 80 per cent of them are children under five in sub-Saharan Africa. There continues to be between 300 million and 500 million cases of malaria worldwide each year, the UN said.