Prague, 15 September 2004 (RFE/RL) -- "The State of the World Population 2004" report reviews the implementation of measures to fight global poverty by improving birth control and women's rights.
The report says "real progress" has been made in following through on a plan adopted in 1994 at a landmark UN conference in Cairo to reduce poverty by focusing on reproductive health and family planning. But it says billions of dollars more are urgently needed to achieve the goals of the 20-year plan.
William Ryan, the editor of the report, tells RFE/RL: "At [the] Cairo [conference], countries agreed that by this time , the world should be spending about $18 billion [a year] and that the international community should provide one third of that as support for developing countries. About $6 billinon a year is needed, but donors today are only providing half of that -- we are $3 billion short. And because of that, we continue to face real difficulties in implementing this critical plan of action."
"Young people between 15 and 24 account for half of all the new cases of HIV infection."
Ryan says that to keep the plan on track, countries also need to improve their focus on health and human rights.
The document says that 90 percent of the 179 countries that adopted the Cairo plan have integrated family planning and safe motherhood in their health care systems.
In addition, 61 percent of couples in developing countries now use modern contraceptive methods, compared to 55 percent a decade ago.
But the report points out that some 350 million couples in the world still lack access to family planning, while up to 530,000 women die annually from pregnancy- and childbirth-related complications, which are mostly preventable.
Ryan says the situation in Central Asia remains particularly grave.
"In some of the Central Asian countries, maternal death rates remain very high and it's an urgent priority to address those, as it is in some of the poorest countries in Africa and South Asia. What needs to be done is to make available to all women trained attendance at birth and the option of emergency obstetric care when complications arise," Ryan said.
The report shows that in Central Asia, Kazakhstan has the highest maternal mortality ratio, with 210 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births. Kyrgyzstan is second with 110, followed by Tajikistan (100), Turkmenistan (31), and Uzbekistan (24).
Among other CIS countries, Azerbaijan has the highest maternal mortality ratio (95), followed by Russia with 67. Armenia comes next with 55 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births. Moldova has 36, while Belarus and Ukraine tie with 35.
One of the highest ratios in the world is Afghanistan's with 1,900, while Iraq has a maternal mortality ratio of 250.
Today's UN report also says 5 million new HIV/AIDS infections occurred during 2003 -- nearly half of them women. Over the past 20 years, some 38 million people were infected and some 20 million died of AIDS.
The report's editor, Ryan, says young people are particularly at risk from HIV/AIDS, hence the need for preventive education.
"To fight HIV/AIDS, behavior change is critical, whether it's addressing people who inject drugs or unsafe sexual behavior. Awareness of the dangers of HIV/AIDS and how to avoid it are critical. Young people between 15 and 24 account for half of all the new cases of HIV infection," Ryan said.
The report says that despite better treatment available in the last decade, a vast majority of those infected lack access to life-saving therapy.
Three-fourths of the countries surveyed in the report say they have a national anti-AIDS strategy. But the document cautions that many high-risk groups are not being reached.
The report says UN agencies aim to bring treatment to 3 million people infected with HIV/AIDS by 2005 and reduce drug costs. But it urges donors for more funding to provide condoms and to step up education efforts.
The document also warns that the successful implementation of the programs adopted in Cairo 10 years ago is also critical to meeting goals for reducing world poverty that were set by the UN after its Millennium Summit in September 2000.
"The UN's Millennium Development Goals for the year 2015, including the eradication of poverty, stopping the AIDS epidemic, improving maternal and child health, supporting the environment and promoting women's rights -- all of these are critical goals that the world community has recognized need to be addressed in the next 10 years. What needs to be recognized as well is that this agenda of universal access to reproductive health plays an essential part in meeting all those goals," Ryan explains.
But the report concludes that to achieve such ambitious goals, it's not just more money that's needed -- but also more political will.