By Teresa Cerojano
Associated Press Writer
MANILA, Philippines —
It is lunchtime, but the cooking pots are empty outside Nurain Dimalao's shack. Her 7-year-old son plays amid the flies in garbage-strewn sand. She worries where his next meal will come from.
Baseco Compound, a shantytown of 50,000 people on the edge of Manila Bay, is the familiar face of poverty in villages and urban slums around the world. Yet there's also good news, albeit qualified: Worldwide, the poor are getting less poor, although not everywhere.
The share of the population of developing regions whose people live in extreme poverty is expected to fall to 15 percent by 2015, down from 46 percent in 1990, according to the United Nations. The gains stem largely from robust economic growth in countries such as China and India, the world's two most populous countries.
Ten years ago, the United Nations set eight "Millennium Development Goals" to tackle the world's most pressing humanitarian problems by halving rates of affliction in such areas as disease, poverty and lack of basic education by 2015, compared with 1990.
As leaders will hear next week at a U.N. summit in New York, the overall success in cutting extreme poverty is patchy from region to region. According to the World Bank, much of Asia already has met or is on its way to meeting the goal, and Latin America is on track to more than halve its rate from 11 percent in 1990 to 5 percent in 2015; sub-Saharan Africa is likely to fall short at a projected 38 percent. It was 58 percent in 1990.
In China, whose economy this year officially surpassed Japan's as the world's second largest, the number living below the international poverty line fell from 60.2 percent in 1990 to 15.9 percent in 2005. By 2015, it is forecast to be 5 percent.
By a U.N. measure of living on less than $1.25 a day, some 254 million Chinese remain in extreme poverty. The Chinese government uses a poverty line of $190 in annual income, or about 52 cents a day, and 40 million Chinese fall below that. Those bedrock poor are mostly farmers and nomads, mainly from minority ethnic groups in remote areas.
Farmers in central China's Funiu mountains were among the poorest just a few years ago. In Chongdugou village, families wove bamboo mats to peddle for food.
Change came as it did to many villages in China - through an idea and a road. A local official thought the area's forested mountains and waterfalls could draw tourists, so he drummed up funding to pave the dirt track that was the sole path in and out of Chongdugou. Today almost all the village's 350-plus families are involved in tourism.
In the 1990s, "people could only feed themselves, and some even starved. Children could not afford to go to school, and many could not even finish primary school," said Liu Jiandang, a 41-year-old former farmer. "Now, we've got paved roads, new houses, phones and vehicles. I run a hotel that can host 20 to 30 tourists and some rooms have TV sets, air conditioners, hot water and bathrooms."
With her profits topping 50,000 yuan ($7,000) a year, Liu can afford to send her 19-year-old son to vocational college and her 10-year-old daughter to primary school. "Our lives are so much better than before," she said.
India has not been as successful, but the United Nations says it is nonetheless on track to cut its poverty rate from 51 percent in 1990 to 24 percent in 2015. India's economy grew 8.8 percent in the second quarter of this year.
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