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Last Updated:  Monday, 24 February, 2003, 12:08 GMT
Asia confronts poverty hurdle
Alistair Lawson
BBC Dhaka correspondent

Woman brick worker in Bangladesh
Senior officials from eight South and East Asian countries are meeting in the Bangladeshi capital, Dhaka, to discuss progress made in reaching global development targets known as "Millennium Development Goals".

The meeting, hosted by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and attended by leading aid agencies, has heard that Asia is not on target in its efforts to reduce poverty, environmental destruction and the spread of HIV AIDS.

The UN says two thirds of the world's poor live in the Asia Pacific region, many earning less than one US dollar a day.

While some progress has been made recently in eliminating poverty, its says that for the majority there has been little change as the global economy has gone into recession.

Smaller nations struggling

The three-day conference is being attended by representatives from Bangladesh, Iran, Malaysia, South Korea, Sri Lanka, Cambodia, Vietnam and East Timor.

They must grapple with the fact that many countries in South and East Asia risk missing development goals set in September 2000 at the UN Millennium Summit.

They have not done enough to combat poverty, hunger, disease, illiteracy, environmental degradation and discrimination against women.

All the nations taking part in the Dhaka meeting are expected to announce new initiatives to meet the millennium development goals.

Uphill battle

But the UN says they face an uphill struggle to do it within the 12-year deadline.

In particular, it has highlighted a shortage of primary school education and says ground has been lost in the fight against HIV AIDS.

UN officials say that this has overshadowed progress made on reducing child mortality rates and increasing school enrolment for girls.

China and India have been commended for their efforts to reduce poverty, in contrast to smaller Asian countries where poverty has either increased or remained unchanged.

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