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Asian Ministers Review MDGs Progress

South Asia is “lagging behind” in poverty and hunger reduction and is “in danger” of missing key Millennium Development Goal (MDG) targets, a U.N. official told Asian ministers gathered to discuss MDGs progress, Agence France-Presse reports. At the meeting, “senior officials told delegates from dozens of countries that global food, energy and financial crises in recent years had jeopardized progress toward achieving the goals set for 2015,” the news service writes.

Reductions in poverty have been recorded in eastern and southeastern Asia, however “[m]ost of southern Asia … is in danger of not halving extreme poverty rates by 2015, and the prevalence of hunger there has actually increased slightly between 2002 and 2007,” said U.N. Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs Sha Zukang, according to AFP (8/3).

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon sent a message to the meeting saying “a number of countries have registered major successes in combating hunger, improving school enrollment and child health, expanding access to clean water and HIV treatment, and controlling tuberculosis, malaria and neglected tropical diseases. These improvements have happened in some of the poorest countries, demonstrating that MDGs are indeed achievable,” Xinhua reports. He noted that achievements are not even between countries and regions in Asia and that there has been “insufficient progress on gender equality and the empowerment of women” (8/3).

Indonesia’s Vice President Boediono, who delivered opening remarks to the conference, “said on Tuesday that [the] Asia-Pacific is still facing tough challenges” to achieving MDGs by 2015, according to Global Times/Xinhua. He highlighted a need to address gender imbalance, HIV rates in North and Central Asia and children’s access to basic education (8/3).

Zukang “stressed that his department and all U.N. system organisations stand ready to work with renewed vigor in coming years so that all targets are achieved in all Asian sub-regions,” reports Bernama.com (8/3). He also “called on governments around the world to do more to meet the development targets,” according to AFP. “‘With just five years to go until 2015 it is crucial that policies are changed or tightened now,’ he said” (8/3).