JPEG - 26.6 kb

In the year 2000, and due to an initiative by Kofi Annan, the Millennium Summit took advantage of the world consensus to eliminate extreme poverty to get, from the rich countries, higher financial commitments and set a plan of action to overcome this problem in a 15-year term. It was then thought that infant mortality could be reduced as well as half of extreme poverty indicators. The education of all children of the world and the decrease of infectious diseases was also included in the plan of action.

The effectiveness of the implemented measures can be assessed through statistical data set since 1990 by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). On Wednesday, September 7, 2005, the UNDP published its annual report. Reading this document represents a unique chance of living one of those moments in which we experience what the truth is.

“Human development” is assessed according to three fundamental criteria: - Health and longevity
- Literacy and education
- The standard of living (GDP per inhabitant)
It is completed with the rate of “human potential” that evaluates participation in social and political life.
Usually, all these statistics are easily picked and are very reliable.

Experts have pointed out that despite positive achievements, we haven’t met our goals. They have also said it is necessary to modifying the three pillars of international policy (development aid, international trade, peace and security). Since 1990, “life expectancy in developing countries has increased in two years, the number of dead children per year has been reduced by three million, and the number of children who do not attend school has been reduced by 30 million. More than 130 million people have escaped extreme poverty”. However, during the same period of time, 18 countries, that is 460 million people, have suffered a regression.

If we focus only on the 2000-2003 period and we analyze the implementation of the Millennium Goals, we’ll be surprised by the regression suffered by States with a high human development index (Australia, Sweden, Belgium, United Kingdom, Malta), by those with a medium level of development (Belize, South Africa, Namibia, Bostwana, Papua New Guinea, Ghana, Congo, Togo, Zimbabwe) as well as the less developed ones (Swaziland, Cameroon, Lesotho, Kenya, Ivory Coast, Zambia, North Korea, Central African Republic, Guinea Bissau, Chad, Burkina-Faso). The Southern African states suffer from HIV/AIDS, wars and bad administration.


Most regions of the world have registered satisfactory progress with regard to life expectancy, except the States of the former USSR which have kept losing ground, and those of Africa, which have suffered a significant drop.

The most brutal regression with regard to life expectancy has been registered in Botswana where it has diminished in 31 years due to the HIV/AIDS epidemic. If we make a comparison, we can see the most important demographic shock experienced in the recent history of Europe was the one suffered by France during WWI with a 16 years reduction in life expectancy.

In general, women live longer than men. However, due to sex discrimination, the infant mortality rate among girls in India has doubled that of boys. It’s believed this kind of discrimination causes the death of 130 000 children a year worldwide. In peace time, this sexual discrimination has also caused the premature death of seven million men in Russia as a consequence of the economic collapse registered during Yeltsin’s years.

But beyond figures, there’s an is an-even-worse reality: the deaths caused by wars. During the analyzed period, the most important butchery was not that of the most-covered-by-the-media conflict. The most lethal war was not that of Rwanda, Yugoslavia, Afghanistan or Iraq but that of Congo that took the lives of 4 million people, the higher figure since WWII.

The death of children under five years could be easily prevented since it is caused by the lack of simple and not expensive cares as well as by mild diseases (German measles, diphtheria and tetanus kill 3 million kids per year). 98% of children deaths are registered in the poorest countries. “In other words, these children die because they were born.”

Disparities in the Standard of living

Some States are more developed than others that have similar incomes and, at the same time, there are low-income States that have reached a very good development (such as Guatemala or Viet Nam). On the other hand, there are rich countries with low development index (Saudi Arabia, for example). One billion human beings live with less than a dollar per day, whereas another billion have one or two dollars. Both groups form a social class living in extreme poverty and represent 40% of the world population.

850 million people are malnourished; therefore, they are immersed in a terrible cycle of diseases.

Inequalities are still more evident in the distribution of wealth. Nowadays, the 500 richest persons of the world (according to Fortune magazine) make as much money as the 416 million poorest people together.

The United States fall to a Third World country level

Unexpectedly, the 2005 Human Development Report has many comments with regard to the American case. Globally, this country continues to have a normal development: its population has better health standards, education and wealth. However, the analysis of the social groups shows a terrible deterioration of the minorities’ situation. What hurricane Katrina has revealed to the foreign public seems to be confirmed in a precise way by the UNDP report: after the first three years of the Bush Administration (we’re talking about indexes and rates that need time to be determined) the black and Hispanic populations of the world power are on their way to live under Third World conditions.

Health indicators in the United States are not uniformed due to the terrible inequalities that have resulted from income levels, health insurance coverage, race, ethnic origin, geographical situation – and the worst- access to medical care (…). Infant mortality trends are surprising. Since the year 2000, the fall in infant mortality rate began to be slower and then inverted”. The infant mortality rate among African-Americans of the capital, Washington, equalled that of the Indian population in the State of Kerala.

The United States is the only rich country that has no universal system of social security. The mixture of private insurance and of public coverage has not reached all inhabitants (…). More than one non-retired Americans out of six (45 million persons) had not enough coverage in 2003 (…). Among Hispanic Americans (34%) the number of people with no health insurance has doubled if compared with whites (13%), and 21% of African Americans have no health insurance (…). More than 40% of the citizens that have no insurance can’t count on regular institutions where they could be treated when sick and more than one third of the people said that during last year they or a relative had to give up the necessary medical care, including treatments and prescribed medication because of the costs (…). The Institute of Medicine believes that, at least, 18 000 Americans die prematurely every year because they have no medical insurance”. If the black population could receive the same attention the Bush Administration has given to Whites, 85 000 people could be saved per year.