Extreme poverty in Southeast Asia has been halved in the decade to 2010, and most countries in the region are on track to achieve before the 2015 deadline the targets set under the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), the United Nations said in a report released on Tuesday.
Still, more efforts need to be taken not only to reduce poverty further but to tackle poor health, gender inequality, lack of education, lack of access to clean water, environmental degradation, and foster development effectiveness through cooperation, said the UN in the newly released “The Millennium Development Goals Report 2014.”
Data from the report shows the poverty rate in Southeast Asia dropped to an average 14 percent in 2010 from 45 percent in 1990.
The report did not specify a target figure for poverty reduction for the region in 2015.
Eight broad goals are set for 191 United Nations member countries under the MDG.
The report said there have been significant reductions in both the estimated prevalence of undernourishment and the number of undernourished in most countries in the sub-region, in which the target of halving the hunger rate has been reached, or almost reached.
“In South-Eastern Asia, the proportion of undernourished people in the total population has decreased from 31.1 percent in 1990-1992 to 10.7 percent in 2011-2013,” it stated.
In terms of child nutrition, the sub-region is close to meeting the target, with the proportion of underweight children under age five declining from 31 to 16 between 1990 and 2012.
In expanding access to primary education, the MDG report said South-Eastern Asia is close to achieving universal primary education and had an adjusted net enrolment rate in primary education of 94 percent in 2012, while youth literacy rates are over 97 percent.
The sub-region also achieved parity in primary education between girls and boys, but gender disparities are larger in secondary education than in primary. In tertiary education, enrolment ratios among young women in South-Eastern Asia are higher than those among young men.
In gender equality, parity in the number of women and men holding wage-earning jobs has been nearly achieved in the sub-region, the report said.
“One of the indicators that measure gender disparity in the labor market is the time-related underemployment rate. It measures the percentage of employed men and women who are willing, and available, to work additional hours,” it explained.
The UN report added that women in South-Eastern Asia are gaining more power in politics as the proportion of seats held by women in single or lower houses of national parliament increased from 12 percent to 18 percent between 2000 and 2014.
The report also said that improvement in child survival is evident the in the sub-region, noting that in 1990 to 2012 South-Eastern Asia has achieved a reduction 58 percent and is on track to meet the target.
“The mortality rate for children under five in South-Eastern Asia dropped from 71 deaths per 1,000 live births in 1990 to 30 in 2012,” it said. South-Eastern Asia is also one of the regions which recorded the highest reduction in maternal mortality ratio or maternal deaths per 100,000 live births over the past 20 years with 56 percent, it added.
The report added that the target of access to drinking water was met five years ahead of schedule in the sub-region as it recorded the largest increase in the proportion of the population using an improved drinking water source among all regions in the world, with 18 percentage points.
Between 1990 and 2012, South-Eastern Asia’s drinking water coverage increased to 89 percent from 71 percent, it said.
In terms of sanitation, the MDG report said the proportion of the population using improved sanitation facilities in the sub-region rose to 71 percent from 47 percent between 1990 and 2012, and it is on its way of meeting the MDG sanitation target.
The conditions of slum dwellers have also been significantly improved in the sub-region, showing largest decline in the proportion of slum dwellers in percentage terms. From 40 percent in 2000, the proportion of slum dwellers in the sub-region dropped to 31 percent in 2012.