CAIRO, June 29 (Xinhua) -- North African countries have achieved a lot in poverty alleviation and reducing the urban-rural gap, but they still need to do more to meet all Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), said a UN official on Tuesday.
Countries like Egypt, Morocco and Algeria have done a lot to reduce poverty in the past decade, Khawla Mattar, director of the UN Information Center Cairo Office said in an exclusive interview with Xinhua.
The percentage of people living on less than 1.25 U.S. dollars a day in the region decreased from 5 percent to 3 percent between 1990 and 2005, according to a recent UN report.
The region has seen a significant decrease in its rural-urban gap. Women in urban areas were 2.5 times more likely to give birth assisted by a skilled assistant than in rural areas in 1990. The ratio fell to only 1.3 in 2008, the report said.
Great progress has been made in enhancing primary school enrollment, reducing child mortality and expanding the access to sanitation facilities in the region.
North Africahas achieved a lot in poverty alleviation and has become one of the leading regions in this aspect, particularly in decreasing the discrepancies between rural and urban areas, said Mattar.
But she worried that the global financial crisis has had an impact on the achievement to the extent that some of the progress will be lost.
"When the whole world was hit by the financial crisis, that has affected all the achievements we have made by these countries," she said.
"There is a fear that these achievements will be lost or reduced because of the financial crisis, which had led to an increase of unemployment and the people who are pushed under poverty line," she said.
"This is a worldwide phenomenon, and North Africa will be affected," Mattar said.
The UN will hold a summit in September in New York when world's leaders will meet to review what has been achieved about the progress of all countries in fulfilling the MDGs by 2015. Through the reports issued by the body at global, regional and national levels, the UN will call on the world's leaders to pledge again to work hard mainly in changing policies, allocating budget and seeking funding from developed countries. The eight MDGs deal a lot with funding by the developed countries for developing nations to support them to achieve the targets, she said.
Many of the developed countries have actually met their commitments to assist and help underdeveloped countries, but others have not really met their pledge, said the UN official.
The UN will increase its pressure through its reports on these countries to fulfill their promises, said Mattar.
Chinahas achieved a lot in terms of the MDGs, particularly in poverty alleviation and reduction of unemployment and gender equality. China has set a good example with its own experience, she said.
Chinahas very strong relations with many countries in north Africa who have historically been supported by China in many ways. China could play a vital role in the region's development, she added.
North Africahas already met many of the MDGs, but there is a lot of work to be done by the governments and civil society to achieve all, she said.
One of the biggest challenges for these countries will be their growing population, she added.
Editor: Fang Yang