ADB: Malaysia among top Asian nations progressing to eradicate poverty

MANILA: Two-thirds of the world's poorest people live in the Asia-Pacific region, where progress to reduce poverty is falling short of targets in many countries, a joint report by the Asian Development Bank and two U.N. agencies said Monday. 

However, Malaysia, China and Thailand are among the leaders in poverty reduction efforts, the report said. 

Other good performers are Palau, Vietnam, Armenia, Azerbaijan and Kyrgyzstan. 

The report says the region is home to three times as many underweight children and people living on less than US$1 (euro.80) a day as sub-Saharan Africa and Latin America combined. 

Prevalence of HIV - the virus that causes AIDS - is also on the rise in the region, which already accounts for a quarter of the world's 9 million people afflicted with the disease. 

The report said two-thirds of Asians - about 1.5 billion people - still lack access to basic sanitation, while over 650 million have no access to safe water. 

"We really have a large task ahead of us,'' said Shiladitya Chatterjee, head of ADB's poverty unit. 

"While we are progressing rapidly in terms of economic growth, we tend to see that growth is not everything. Growth is not accompanied by basic provisions.'' 

Losing momentum - or needing to accelerate progress to meet targets - are Fiji, Kazakhstan, Samoa and Uzbekistan. 

India, Afghanistan and Nepal were said to be "catching up'' although their latest status is still off the region's average. 

Falling further behind are Bangladesh, Indonesia, Laos, Mongolia, Myanmar, Pakistan, Papua New Guinea and the Philippines. 

Chatterjee said China has made impressive cuts in income poverty although concerns remain high over HIV, access to water and sanitation, and urban-rural inequalities. 

Despite India's progress in meeting development goals, the report said the prevalence of poverty and underweight children is among the highest in the world. 

The Millennium Development Goals are comprised of eight poverty-reduction targets that range from halving poverty to stopping the spread of HIV and providing primary education by 2015. 

"Asia-Pacific countries continue to make progress towards the goals, but at present many are likely to miss some vital targets. Even more worryingly, some countries are at risk of failing to reach even two-thirds of the target,'' the report said, citing low government spending allotted for health and education. - AP 

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