ECON: Global progress...

Erik Moeller (
Wed, 30 Apr 1997 21:42:28 +0200

650m children live on less than $1 a day

Friday, 18 April 1997: Over 650 million children
currently exist on less than $1 a day, according

"Contrary to what the world might expect, the poor
are getting poorer, the number of poor is
increasing, and the disparity between rich and
poor has never been greater," said UNICEF
Executive Director Carol Bellamy.

According to statistics released by the World Bank
in World Development Indicators 1997, more than
1.3 billion people currently live on less than $1
a day, and a further 2 billion are only marginally
better off. UNICEF believes that children account
for at least 50 per cent of the total number of
poor people.

"These figures provide further distressing
confirmation that the scourge of poverty is not in
retreat. More children are living in poverty today
than ever before, " said Ms. Bellamy.

UNICEF argues that the past 50 years have seen an
increase in the number of poor in the world. This
is notwithstanding numerous initiatives -- such as
structural adjustment, support for private
investment and efforts at debt reduction -- all of
which have been designed to increase economic

Between 1988 and 1993, the number of people living
below the poverty line of $1 a day increased by at
least 20 per cent in sub-Saharan Africa and in
Latin America. The numbers also increased in South
Asia and in the Middle East and North Africa.

Levels of income disparity between the richest and
poorest 20 per cent of the world population have
increased from 30:1 to 61:1 over the past 30
years, and Ms. Bellamy argued that inequity in the
distribution of wealth and resources explains the
rising number of the poor.

UNICEF has documented many instances where
impressive progress in the well-being of children
has been achieved without economic growth, through
the investment of limited resources in basic
services, such as health and education. Zimbabwe
increased primary school enrolment from 1.2
million to 2.1 million pupils and expanded its
immunization coverage from 32 per cent to 75 per
cent during the 1980s at a time of stagnating
average per capita income. In India, the state of
Kerala reduced its infant mortality rate from 55
to 17 per 1,000 live births between 1976 and 1992,
despite very slow economic growth.

In contrast, significant but inequitable economic
growth in other countries has led to actual
increases in the level of real and relative
poverty. For example, Botswana recorded very rapid
economic growth of 10 per cent per year in the
1980s, but the number of poor in the country did
not decline. Brazil and Honduras saw an increase
in both the number and proportion of poor people
during the 1980s, despite a reasonable rate of
economic growth.

"The eradication of poverty must be at the centre
of our development efforts into the 21st century.
For as long as poverty is allowed to grow
unchecked, child malnutrition, preventable disease
and widespread illiteracy will continue to
thrive," said Ms. Bellamy.

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