The statistics are alarming. Half the world’s population lives on less than $2 a day; and a billion people survive on less than $1 a day. The population in the poorest countries will grow three times faster than the world as a whole over the next 50 years. Some 14,000 people are infected each day with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. Indeed, between 1996 and 1998, 85% of working teachers who died in the Central African Republic were infected with HIV.
So grim is the picture painted by the latest United Nations population report — entitled “People, poverty and possibilities“, and published on December 3rd — it is difficult to know how to respond to the challenge of world poverty. The UN’s Millennium Development Goals, endorsed by the General Assembly in September 2000, seem more elusive than ever. Halving global poverty by 2015 is itself an enormous task. But other goals, such as the provision of universal primary education by the same date, are now at risk because of the impact of AIDS.