UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - Efforts to cut hunger worldwide have been undermined by the global economic crisis, though the world remains on track to meet a goal of reducing poverty by 2015, a U.N. report released on Wednesday showed.
Slashing the number of hungry people is one of several Millennium Development Goals set in 2000 that include halving extreme poverty, halting the spread of AIDS and ensuring primary education for all children by 2015.
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said progress on the goals has been uneven, with a spike in hunger and malnutrition in South Asia and “stubborn gaps” persisting between rich and poor, rural and urban, men and women.
“Progress against hunger has been impacted more severely (than other goals) by economic troubles,” a new U.N. report on meeting the goals said. Food price rises in 2008 and falling incomes in 2009 had exacerbated the problem, it said.
“The number of malnourished, already growing since the beginning of the decade, may have grown at a faster pace after 2008,” it said.
The 76-page report said the goals remain achievable, though donor countries needed to live up to aid promises.
“Unmet commitments, inadequate resources, lack of focus and accountability, and insufficient dedication to sustainable development have created shortfalls in many areas,” it said.
Some of those shortfalls were aggravated by the poor economic climate.
“It is clear that improvements in the lives of the poor have been unacceptably slow, and some hard-won gains are being eroded by the climate, food and economic crises,” Ban said.
Ban said he would bring up the goals and the failure of big donor nations to deliver on promises of aid to Africa and elsewhere at a Group of 20 meeting in Canada this week. He also promised to stress the importance of job creation.
“Job one is jobs,” he said. “Today, world unemployment is the highest on record. 211 million people are unemployed — and the world needs to create 470 million new jobs in the next 10 years simply to keep pace.”
Leaders of U.N. member states are expected to agree on an action plan at a meeting in September in New York.
Ban also announced the creation of a U.N. advocacy group of “superheroes in defeating poverty” to push the goals.
The new panel boasts big names like Microsoft founder and philanthropist Bill Gates and CNN founder Ted Turner and will be co-chaired by Rwandan President Paul Kagame and Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero.
As a whole, the world is on track to meet the 2015 deadline to cut poverty by at least 50 percent, the report said, thanks to robust growth in the first half of the decade and increased prosperity in the developing economic powers China and India.
The report predicts that the number of people living on less than $1.25 a day will drop from 1.8 billion in 1990 to 920 million in 2015.
Sub-Saharan Africa and parts of Southeast and East Asia are a different story. Because of the economic crisis, tens of millions of people who would have climbed out of poverty there will remain below the poverty line for some time.
The report said the number of child deaths was down sharply due to malaria and HIV control and measles vaccinations.