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Prospects for meeting the hunger and poverty goals

Some progress towards the two targets of MDG 1 has been made. The world appears to be on track to achieve a halving of the proportion of the population living in extreme poverty. Between 1990 and 2001, the proportion of people living in extreme poverty (less than 1 dollar a day) in developing countries declined from 28 to 21 percent, i.e. by 129 million people, and it is set to decline to 10 percent (622 million people) by 2015.

Concerning the hunger target in MDG 1, the proportion of undernourished people in the developing countries declined from 20 to 17 percent in the 1990s. Even if the prevalence of hunger were to be halved by 2015, a halving of the global absolute number of undernourished people, which is the goal of the World Food Summit 1996, is unlikely. The absolute number of undernourished people in developing countries fell by only 9 million in the 1990s.

Moreover, progress in hunger and poverty reduction at global level masks significant differences among regions, countries and areas within national borders. Much of the global progress is accounted for by developments in China and India. In sub-Saharan Africa in particular, progress has been insufficient to meet either of the two targets of MDG 1.

Countries with the highest levels of poverty must achieve very high rates of sustained economic growth to make a serious dent in poverty, although these countries are likely to face the most serious handicaps in this endeavour. Even within countries undergoing economic growth, there are pockets of persistently high levels of poverty and hunger. Particular groups of people suffer a higher overall incidence of poverty and hunger and will not necessarily share the fruits of economic growth. They include children, female-headed households, indigenous and tribal peoples and populations without sufficient access to natural, financial or human assets. Approaches to poverty reduction often neglect gender differentials in terms of women's access to income, resources and services. To reach those untouched by economic growth because they live in isolated regions as well as those who cannot take advantage of the opportunities offered by such growth, swift and targeted action is required. This will in itself have a positive economic impact and create a stronger basis for sustainable and broad-based economic growth.

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