July 9, 2003

SOUTHERN AFRICA: UN report shows slower development

Southern African countries generally fared poorly in the rankings of the United Nations Human Development Report 2003.

The human development index is a composite measure of average achievement in three basic dimensions of human development - a long and healthy life, education and a decent standard of living.

South Africa, placed at 111 out of 175 countries, was followed by Namibia (124), Botswana (125) and Swaziland (133), Comoros (134) and Lesotho (137) in the "medium human development" category of the index.

Zimbabwe (ranked 145), Madagascar (149), Malawi (162), Zambia (163) and Mozambique (a lowly 170) had all shown low levels of human development over the past year.

Zimbabwe's position dropped from the medium human development category in the 2002 Human Development Report, when it was at 128.

South Africa's rank of 111 was worse than in 2002, when it was positioned at 107 on the index. Swaziland also showed a significant drop, from 125 in 2002 to 133 in 2003. Zambia, at 153 in 2002, fell 10 positions to 163 in 2003.

There was no significant improvement in the rankings of any of the 12 countries mentioned.

The report, to be launched on Thursday in Maputo, Mozambique, says rich and poor nations can work together to achieve the ambitious targets of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) by 2015. The goals include halving the number of people living in poverty, halving the number of people who suffer from hunger, and halting and reversing the spread of HIV/AIDS.

The Mozambique launch of the report follows its release on Wednesday in Dublin, Ireland, in what the UN Development Programme (UNDP) described as a symbol of the "North-South partnership needed to achieve the MDGs".

UNDP Administrator Mark Malloch Brown attended the Dublin launch, and was quoted as saying there was an urgent need to "break down barriers that keep developing countries out of rich markets, and allowing them to devote more of their own scarce resources to development priorities, rather than repaying international creditors".

The report notes that in recent years in sub-Saharan Africa, along with the Arab States, Latin America, the Caribbean and Central and Eastern Europe, "the number of people surviving on less than [US] $1 a day (the international poverty measure) increased".

In terms of achieving the MDGs, the report notes that progress has been slow in certain cases. For example, "at the current pace, sub-Saharan Africa will not reduce child mortality by two-thirds until 150 years later than the date set by the [MDG]". (IRIN)

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