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UN says parts of US as poor as 3rd world

by canberra boy Thu Sep 8th, 2005 at 10:38:09 AM EST

The UNDP's 2005 UN Human Development Report shows that overall global living standards are improving, and points to successes such as Vietnam's reduction of child deaths and Bangladesh's gains in education and life expectancy.

But the report shows that 18 of the world's poorest countries - with a population of 460 million - are doing worse in most key indicators than they were in 1990.  Twelve of the 18 are in sub-Saharan Africa where the effects of HIV/Aids and conflict are to blame.  The remaining six are former Soviet states in Central Asia and Eastern Europe, suffering falling life expectancy and economic disruption.

And the most shocking of all, the report details a string of appalling statistics which show that inequality within countries, and particularly the US, is as stark as the gaps between countries.

The Independent provides a neat summary:

Child mortality is on the rise in the United States
For half a century the US has seen a sustained decline in the number of children who die before their fifth birthday. But since 2000 this trend has been reversed.  Although the US leads the world in healthcare spending - per head of population it spends twice what other rich OECD nations spend on average, 13 per cent of its national income - this high level goes disproportionately on the care of white Americans. It has not been targeted to eradicate large disparities in infant death rates based on race, wealth and state of residence.

The infant mortality rate in the US is now the same as in Malaysia
High levels of spending on personal health care reflect America's cutting-edge medical technology and treatment. But the paradox at the heart of the US health system is that, because of inequalities in health financing, countries that spend substantially less than the US have, on average, a healthier population. A baby boy from one of the top 5 per cent richest families in America will live 25 per cent longer than a boy born in the bottom 5 per cent and the infant mortality rate in the US is the same as Malaysia, which has a quarter of America's income.

Blacks in Washington DC have a higher infant death rate than people in the Indian state of Kerala
The health of US citizens is influenced by differences in insurance, income, language and education. Black mothers are twice as likely as white mothers to give birth to a low birthweight baby. And their children are more likely to become ill.

Throughout the US black children are twice as likely to die before their first birthday.

Hispanic Americans are more than twice as likely as white Americans to have no health cover  
The US is the only wealthy country with no universal health insurance system. Its mix of employer-based private insurance and public coverage does not reach all Americans. More than one in six people of working age lack insurance. One in three families living below the poverty line are uninsured. Just 13 per cent of white Americans are uninsured, compared with 21 per cent of blacks and 34 per cent of Hispanic Americans. Being born into an uninsured household increases the probability of death before the age of one by about 50 per cent.

More than a third of the uninsured say that they went without medical care last year because of cost.

Uninsured Americans are less likely to have regular outpatient care, so they are more likely to be admitted to hospital for avoidable health problems.

More than 40 per cent of the uninsured do not have a regular place to receive medical treatment. More than a third say that they or someone in their family went without needed medical care, including prescription drugs, in the past year because they lacked the money to pay.

If the gap in health care between black and white Americans was eliminated it would save nearly 85,000 lives a year. Technological improvements in medicine save about 20,000 lives a year.

Child poverty rates in the United States are now more than 20 per cent
Child poverty is a particularly sensitive indicator for income poverty in rich countries. It is defined as living in a family with an income below 50 per cent of the national average.

The US - with Mexico - has the dubious distinction of seeing its child poverty rates increase to more than 20 per cent. In the UK - which at the end of the 1990s had one of the highest child poverty rates in Europe - the rise in child poverty, by contrast, has been reversed through increases in tax credits and benefits.

The release of this report is seen in some quarters as the UN Secretariat fighting back against the Bolton and US assault on the UN and multilateral solutions to world problems, prior to the 2005 World Summit, convened for 14-16 September.  As The Independent so delicately puts it "The Bush administration wants to replace multilateral solutions to international problems with a world order in which the US does as it likes on a bilateral basis."

Last month John Bolton, the new US ambassador to the UN, submitted 750 amendments to the draft declaration for next week's summit to strengthen the UN and review progress towards its Millennium Development Goals to halve world poverty by 2015.   On Tuesday the US delegation, which had come under fire after pressing for the removal of poverty-reduction Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) from the summit's draft document, said it was now ready to accept the use of the term MDGs throughout the draft provided that the term could be appropriately defined.

Londonbear's earlier diary at Booman Tribune details the implications of failing to achieve the MDGs.

[In addition to the linked Independent article, this diary is based on reporting by the BBC and Daily Times of Pakistan.]

Cross-posted at Booman Tribune.

I thought that the UNDP report provides some interesting extra evidence in the light of post-Katrina discussion of racism and the effects of the neo-con agenda.

I'm intending to follow up with a preview of the 2005 World Summit.

As it's now after midnight in eastern Australia, I'm off to bed, so won't respond to comments for a while.

by canberra boy (canberraboy1 at gmail dot com) on Thu Sep 8th, 2005 at 10:48:06 AM EST

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