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The Facts


new internationalist
issue 200 - October 1989

Wealth - The FACTS - Health

In the last three decades, the gap between industrialized and developing countries
has continued to widen in terms of wealth but has narrowed in terms of health.

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Photo: Claude Sauvageot


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The prices of the raw materials on which Third World economies depend have been in steady decline. In 1987 they reached their lowest level for 50 years.

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Western countries are giving less in overseas aid now than in 1985. Only four countries now meet the UN target of 0.7% of GNP: Norway, Holland, Denmark and Sweden.

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[image, unknown] THE JUSTICE LEAGUE
GNP figures give some idea of a country's overall wealth - but no sense of how the poorest people within each nation are faring. A more meaningful guide to the plight of the poorest is the percentage of the overall GNP which accrues to the poorest 40 per cent of households. These figures are not available for all countries - this is just a selection of industrialized and developing countries from 1985.7 Note that while Third World countries tend to be more unequal, as well as poorer, Australia distributes its wealth more unfairly than Bangladesh, India and El Salvador

Life expectancy in years8

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Life expectancy in years10

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The biggest increases in life expectancy over this period were registered in Vietnam (38% up to 62), Togo (32% up to 54) and Iran (29% up to 66).

Real progress has been made since 1970 in providing safe water and adequate sanitation. In rural areas the percentage of people with safe water has trebled. In urban areas access to adequate sanitation has doubled.

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Third World governments have been forced by the debt crisis and IMF policies to cut their public spending. But they have all too often done this by cutting health and education, while spending more on arms.

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The wealth and health of the world.

1 UNICEF State of the World's Children 1989.
2 ibid.
3 World Bank World Development Report 1978 and 1989.
4 ibid.
5 World Bank World Development Report 1989.
6 OECD, Development Assistance Committee, Dec 1987.
7 UNICEF op cit.
8 ibid.
9 Aotearoa would come 16th in this table, with 72 in 1975 and 75 in 1987, a 4% increase.
10 UNICEF op cit.
11 WHO, Sept 1988 update on Water Decade. Figures exclude China.
12 ibid.
13 World Bank World Development Report 1988.

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New Internationalist issue 200 magazine cover This article is from the October 1989 issue of New Internationalist.
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