NEW DELHI (AlertNet) - South Asian nations are making the least progress in the Asia-Pacific region on meeting key development goals, which they pledged to achieve by 2015, said a senior official from the Asian Development Bank (ADB) on Friday.
Bindu Lohani, the bank's vice-president for sustainable development, was speaking at the launch of a new progress report on the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), a framework of eight global targets established in 2000 by the United Nations (U.N.) aimed at trying to alleviate poverty in the developing world.
The goals include reducing child and maternal mortality, halving poverty and hunger, providing universal primary education, gender equality and halting the spread of HIV/AIDS.
"If you look at the countries who are the poorest performers, there are about 17 countries who are off-track. Out of the 17, all South Asian countries are included with the exception of Sri Lanka," Lohani said.
"They are slow in poverty reduction, eliminating hunger, completion of basic education, gender parity, tertiary education."
The report is the latest in a series of Asia-Pacific MDG reports produced since 2004 by the Pacific/Asian Development Bank, United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP).
Such South Asian nations as India, Pakistan, Nepal, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh have already achieved or are on track to eliminate gender inequality in primary and secondary education as well as halt the spread of tuberculosis, said the report. But many of these countries are unlikely to meet 2015 targets on reducing hunger, under age-five mortality and expanding access to safe drinking water and sanitation.
The report said that while the Asia-Pacific region as a whole had made "big gains" in reducing poverty and is moving fast on other goals, there are still high levels of hunger as well as child and maternal mortality.
The region -- which has more than 60 percent of the global population and incorporates more than 50 countries -- has already met the goal of halving the number of people living on less than $1.25 per day to 22 percent from 50 percent in 1990 due to strong economic growth.
But the region continues to lose high numbers of children before they reach the age of five and thousands of mothers are dying in child birth unnecessarily. Over three million children died before their fifth birthday in 2010, said the report.
U.N. officials said it is not too late to reverse trends. "We are in a race against time, with just three years left to achieve the MDGs," said Noeleen Heyzer, ESCAP executive secretary, via a video message.
"On our goal of reducing child malnutrition, for instance, we need less than 2 percent annual improvement in all 14 off-track countries to meet the goal. We are so close to the finishing line - it is time for a big final push."
(Editing by Julie Mollins)