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World has to do more for the poor - UN chief

UNITED Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon urged governments yesterday to increase development aid for the poorest countries and to improve health services, saying nations have moved too slowly to meet their goals of eradicating poverty and hunger.

Those goals have become even more difficult to achieve with the global economic downturn, Ban said.

"Higher food prices in 2008 have reversed the nearly two-decade trend in reversing hunger," Ban told government officials at a meeting of the UN Social and Economic Council in Geneva.

"Momentum to reduce overall poverty in the developing world is also slowing. Tens of millions of people have been pushed into joblessness and greater vulnerability," he said.

The latest UN report to review progress on the Millennium Development Goals says the world will fail to achieve most of its targets to boost wealth, health and the quality of life in poor countries by 2015.

The goals, adopted by world leaders in 2000, include cutting extreme poverty by half, giving all children an education and reversing the HIV/AIDS pandemic.

"We have been moving too slowly to meet our goals," Ban said.

Ban said the total annual aid flow to Africa remains at least US$20 billion below what world leaders pledged at a summit in Gleneagles, Scotland, in 2005.

The G-8 at that time promised to increase aid to sub-Saharan Africa by US$25 billion a year by 2010.

Ban is scheduled to attend the Group of Eight summit of industrialized nations, which opens tomorrow in L'Aquila, Italy.

"I urge the G-8 to set out, country by country, how donors will scale up aid to Africa over the next year," he said. "The credibility of the international system depends on whether donors deliver."

Governments should strengthen their health services, Ban said.

He also noted that many countries in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia have made little or no progress in improving their people's health and preventing young children and mothers from dying.

Rich nations should boost development aid in public health, he said.


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