Women hardest hit by poverty in sub-Saharan Africa

The UN chief has urged world leaders to follow through on their commitment to poverty elimination

United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki Moon said poverty in sub-Saharan Africa had increased between 1990 and 2005, and women and girls are most affected by bias and neglect. He was addressing the 63rd annual UN General Assembly on the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) in New York.

“Women and girls suffer persistent bias and neglect, evidenced by disturbing gender gaps in health, education, employment and empowerment,” said Ban. He added that the current financial crisis in the US and other countries is threatening the well-being of billions of people, especially the ‘poorest of the poor’. This, he said, only compounds the damage being caused by much higher prices of food and fuel.

“We are the first generation to possess the resources, knowledge and skills to eliminate poverty. Experience shows that where there is strong political resolve, we see progress. And where there is partnership, there are gains,” said the UN chief.

He has appealed to world leaders and delegates to rise to the challenge and ‘inject new energy’ into the global partnership for development.

Ban is pleased with the MDGs achievements so far. “We are on the way to cutting extreme poverty and hunger in half by 2015,” he said.

The MDGs were adopted in September 2000 by presidents and prime ministers of 189 countries. The aim is to find ways to improve the well-being of the poorest of the poor by 2015.

Qualifying the successes, Ban said: “Measles vaccinations have prevented 7.5 million deaths. Inroads have been made against Aids. There is surging school enrolment in several African countries, following the abolition of school fees and millions of poor households have risen out of extreme poverty, not just in China and India, but in many countries, including some of the poorest.”

He added that while they’re moving in the right direction, they’re not moving quickly enough. “Malaria kills a child every 30 seconds. Yet, much faster than anyone expected, we are close to containing this scourge,” he said. An optimistic Ban reaffirmed, however, that all is on track to end malaria deaths by 2015.

He urged the leaders to live up to their responsibilities. “I ask you to be bold in your commitments. I ask you to be generous.” Ban also proposed that a formal summit be held in 2010 in order to take stock of the MDG goals.


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