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Wednesday, 24 July, 2002, 13:51 GMT 14:51 UK
Africa bottom of development league
Sierra Leonean refugees
War has put Sierra Leone at bottom of the UNDP list
The 27 least developed countries in the world are all African, with Sierra Leone ranking as the worst place to live, according to the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).

In its Human Development Report for 2002, the organisation says that during the 1990s not only did Africa fail to make advances in eliminating poverty, but the number of people living in "extreme poverty" on the continent grew.

Human Development in Africa
African countries make up all of the 27 least developed countries in the UNDP index.
Aid to Africa dropped from $39 to $19 a head in the 1990s
16.5m have died worldwide from Aids-related diseases in Africa
270m suffer from Malaria in Africa
This compares very poorly with Asia, where the number living in extreme poverty was "nearly halved".

Despite the continuing burden of poverty, "aid to developing countries fell; for Africa it was halved in real terms over the decade from $39 to $19 per capita," Sakiko Fukuda-Parr, the report's lead author, says.

On a global basis, UNDP reports that 60 countries are now poorer than 20 years ago and 65% of countries are now experiencing greater inequality between rich and poor.

A central focus of the report is the argument that democratic government improves living standards.

"Although scores of countries took steps towards democracy in the 1980s and 1990s, progress is stalled and some are slipping back to authoritarian rule, putting human development at risk," the report warns.

One example was Zimbabwe's "pseudo-democracy".

The report did highlight the progress made by South Africa, with the "advent of full democracy" in 1994.

Human empowerment

Africa registers as the least developed continent, occupying 52 of the bottom 75 countries of the total of 173 listed.


We need to put the politics back into poverty eradication

Mark Malloch Brown, UNDP Administrator

The highest ranking Africa countries are Seychelles at 47, Mauritius at 67, Cape Verde at 100 and South Africa at 107.

Africa's giant, Nigeria, is down at 148, far lower than you would have expected, the UNDP's Omar Noman told the BBC's Network Africa.

"The central message of this report is a simple one: to promote human development successfully we need to put the politics back into poverty eradication.

"That means ensuring that the poor have a real political voice and access to strong, transparent institutions capable of providing them with the kind of personal security, access to justice, and services from health to education they so desperately need," according to Mark Malloch Brown.

Literacy success

The UNDP measures human development using a series of criteria.

These include life expectancy, standard of living, functional literacy rates, number of underweight children and access to "improved water sources".

The UNDP says Africa has made "significant progress" with literacy, though its rate of progress still lags behind that for east Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean.

Benin, it was pointed out, was having greater success than many richer countries in moving towards full school enrolment for all children of primary school age.

Water supplies in Kenya
Access to clean water is vital for development

The report points out that the Aids epidemic has been a major obstacle to development.

By the end of 2000, it says, nearly 22 million people had died of Aids-related diseases and 13 million children were homeless; 75% of them were in Africa.

Malaria was identified as another serious health risk to development, with 300 million people globally - 90% of the them in sub-Saharan Africa - affected by the disease.

Armed conflict and military involvement in politics in Africa and the genocide in Rwanda were also identified as major factors in the lack of human development.

Since 1989, armies have intervened directly in politics in 13 African countries.

 WATCH/LISTEN
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24 Jul 02 | Americas
24 Jun 02 | Business
25 Jun 02 | Business
09 Jul 02 | Africa
04 Sep 00 | Business
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