September 13, 2010 — Next week a special session of the U.N. General Assembly will meet in New York to review progress on the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), which commit member countries and their development partners to eliminate extreme poverty and hunger, and significantly improve the economic and human welfare of poor people worldwide by 2015.
Until the food, fuel and financial crises in the last two years, developing countries were making progress in reaching these goals—although at different paces. In 1981, 52% of people in developing countries lived in extreme poverty; by 2005, that share had fallen to 25%. The efforts of countries and their partners were paying off right up until the crises, with poverty falling sharply in East Asia, Latin America, and Eastern and Central Europe. But this progress has not been shared by all.
Sub-Saharan Africa continues to lag in overcoming poverty, and hunger and malnutrition rates have been falling—but not fast enough to eradicate hunger by 2015. Too many of the world’s people remain hungry, poor or vulnerable to poverty, with too few jobs and too little access to services and economic opportunity.
According to a new World Bank paper, Unfinished Business: Mobilizing New Efforts to Achieve the 2015 Millennium Development Goals, 64 million more people were living in extreme poverty (below $1.25/day) in 2010. By 2015, 1.2 million more children under five may die, 350,000 more students may not complete primary school, and about 100 million more people may remain without access to safe water.