It is unacceptable for the Southern African Development Community (SADC) member countries to experience high levels of poverty when the region has abundant resources, says Zambian President Levy Mwanawasa.
President Mwanawasa, who is the current SADC Chairman, said on Sunday it was not proper for the region to have such a huge number of people living in abject poverty despite the abundant resources it had.
Addressing the opening of the SADC International Summit Conference on Poverty and Development, he said 40 percent of the people lived on less than one US dollar per day.
He said the high poverty levels were reflected in poor social indicators such as high levels of malnutrition, illiteracy, unemployment, under-employment, declining life expectancy, unsatisfactory access to basic social services and infrastructure needed to sustain basic human capacities.
"Further, a lack of capacity to cope with external shocks, such as natural disasters of floods and cyclones, diminishing energy and communicable diseases such as HIV and AIDS have had their fair share in worsening the poverty situation in the region."
President Mwanawasa said despite the causes of poverty varying from country to country, some of the key common factors included slow or negligible economic growth and job creation over most of the 1980s and 1990s, declining social services and a rising disease burden, especially related to HIV and AIDS.
As the region pondered issues of poverty, it was important to recognise the tremendous progress made in the fight against poverty that had occurred in some of the member states.
He congratulated Mauritius for being a shining example of a successful country and implored other member countries to emulate the transformation that had taken place in that country.
"It is gratifying that even for many of our countries real progress in the fight against poverty and stopping it from rising further, is clearly visible.
"Even where progress is modest, we must still recognise it because it signals that at the worst may be over if we continue to make the same progress.
"The challenge is to make this progress happen even faster," President Mwanawasa said - BuaNews-NNN