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UN Says Poor Nations On Track To Cut Poverty

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UNITED NATIONS — The global economic crisis has slowed the fight against poverty but the developing world is still on track to meet a key U.N. goal of halving the number of people living on less than $1 a day by 2015, according to a report released Wednesday.

The U.N. report cited new World Bank estimates suggesting that the crisis left an additional 50 million people in extreme poverty in 2009 and will leave some 64 million impoverished by the end of 2010, primarily in sub-Saharan Africa and eastern and southeastern Asia. Hunger may also have spiked in 2009 – with over 1 billion people undernourished – as a consequence of the global food and financial crises.

The effects of the crises are likely to persist with poverty rates slightly higher than they would have been had the world economy grown steadily at its pre-crisis pace, it said.

Nonetheless, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said the report shows that despite the financial, food and fuel crises, "the world is still making progress on reducing poverty, albeit more slowly."

The overall poverty rate is still expected to fall to 15 percent by 2015, due mainly to sharp declines in China and elsewhere in Asia, which means that around 920 million people would be living below the international poverty line.

"That is half the number in 1990," Ban said, which means the U.N. goal would be met.

Cutting global poverty is the first of eight Millennium Development Goals adopted by 189 world leaders at a U.N. summit in 2000. The report assesses prospects of achieving all of them and presents a mixed picture, with goals to improve sanitation and women's equality and to reduce maternal mortality lagging.

"This report shows that economic uncertainty cannot be an excuse to slow down our development efforts." Ban said at a news conference. "It is a reason to speed them up."

He stressed that "stubborn gaps persist between rich and poor, between rural and urban, between males and females."

The secretary-general has summoned world leaders to another summit from Sept. 20-22 to adopt an action plan to achieve all the goals in the next five years. He said he also expects to promote the goals at the G-20 summit starting later this week in Canada and will urge job creation as the number one priority in the face of record world unemployment.

He said 211 million people were currently unemployed and that 470 million new jobs must be created in the next 10 years just to keep pace.

The secretary-general also announced the formation of advocacy group in support of the Millennium Development Goals co-chaired by Rwandan President Paul Kagame and Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero to help speed achievement of the goals. It will include Nobel Peace laureates Muhammad Yunus of Bangladesh and Wangari Maathai of Kenya, former Chilean president Michelle Bachelet, Nelson Mandela's wife Graca Machel, and American entrepreneurs Bill Gates and Ted Turner.