The global economic recession has reversed a 20-year decline in world poverty and is likely to increase the ranks of the hungry in 2009 by up to 90 million, an increase of six per cent over current totals, the United Nations said on Monday.
The estimate, in a gloomy report on a decade-old UN programme to set poor countries on the road to solid development by 2015, suggests 17 per cent of the world's 6.8 billion people will be classed extremely poor by the end of this year. "In 2009, an estimated 55 to 90 million more people will be living in extreme poverty than anticipated before the crisis," declared the report, launched in Geneva by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.
The Millennium Development Goals Report 2009 also warned that a recent decline in foreign aid - despite pledges from rich countries to increase the amount of aid - was likely to bring more disease and social disruption in the South.
In a speech to the UN's Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), Mr Ban appealed to the G8 industrial nations to step up aid, especially to Africa, over the next year, saying their previous pledges had fallen short. Mr Ban's speech was aimed at the July 8-10 G8 gathering in the Italian city of L'Aquila, which he will be attending.
In 2005, G8 leaders pledged to raise development assistance by $50 billion by 2010, half of that for Africa. But Mr Ban said that aid remains at least $20 billion below that target. "The numbers of people going hungry and living in extreme poverty are much larger than they would have been had progress continued uninterrupted," Mr Ban said in a foreword, although the full impact of recession was not yet known, he added.
In the report, Mr Ban said it was important to continue programmes for improving maternal and infant survival rates and tackling hunger and malnutrition in the young, estimating that in poorer countries over a quarter of children are underweight.