Extreme poverty has been declining in Asia over the past 25 years but has grown steadily in Africa's poorest countries, where nearly 65% of the people now live on less than a dollar a day, a UN report said Tuesday.
Asian countries have been able to improve the lot of many of their citizens by economic growth, but the poorest African countries find themselves "caught in an international poverty trap," said the U.N. Conference on Trade and Development.
The agency's 285-page Least Developed Countries Report is the most comprehensive study yet of poverty in the world's 49 poorest countries, said UNCTAD Secretary-General Rubens Ricupero.
"We have seen the number of people living on less than one dollar a day in those countries doubling over the last 30 years to reach 307 million people," he said.
The agency examined poverty in the poorest countries, adjusting prices to the buying power of a U.S. dollar in 1985.
In the African countries studied, 55.8% of the population lived below the line in the 1960s. The percentage grew until it was 64.9% in the period 1995-9, the annual study said.
In Asia, however, the percentage dropped from 35.5% in the 1965-9 period to 23% by the end of the 1990s.
Congo fares the worst, with 90.5% below the line. In Asia, Myanmar, also known as Burma, was the worst, at 52.3%.
Poverty is so widespread in some countries that there is little margin for investment to stimulate the growth that could benefit many of the poorest, Ricupero said.
Furthermore, Ricupero said, many of the countries classed by the United Nations as "least developed" rely heavily on the export of commodities whose values been in a long decline.
(Xinhua News Agency June 19, 2002)