Human Rights


Human rights must include the ability to survive ­ the basic means by which to live. And yet, despite improvements in overall poverty figures, progress has been uneven and much human deprivation still remains, especially in the Majority World.

More than a quarter of the people in the Third World still live below the income-poverty line; half a million women die each year in childbirth and education is still largely for the privileged.

158 million malnourished children under five malnourished

1.3 billion people living below the income-poverty line

school Education

Overall, adult-literacy rates have improved considerably in the last 50 years. But there are 538 million women who still cannot read ­ nearly two-thirds of the adult illiterates in developing countries. More than 140 million children between the ages of 6 and 11 do not attend school. This is 23 per cent of primary-school-age children in developing countries. Perhaps an equal number drop out of school.

Basic needs

In 1993 more than 12 million children under the age of five died. But the number dying from vaccine-preventable diseases was reduced by 1.3 million. This leaves 2.4 million deaths which mortality are due to diseases like malaria, poliomyelitis and diphtheria ­ diseases which are preventable. Globally, the infant-mortality rate has dropped from 82 per 1,000 live births in 1980 to about 62
in 1993.

1Human Development Report 1997 (UNDP) 2State of the World's Children 1997 (UNICEF)
3The World Health Report 1996 (WHO)



One of the great achievements of the twentieth century, says the latest Human Development Report from the UN, is the dramatic reduction of poverty. In the South, more than three-quarters of the population can now expect to survive to the age of 40. Adult illiteracy has been reduced by nearly half. Infant mortality has been cut by nearly three-fifths.

This still meants that 507 million people are not expected to survive until they are 40; there are 1.2 billion people without access to safe water, 842 million illiterate adults, and 158 million malnourished children under five.

1.2 billion people without access to safe water safewater

842 million
illiterate adults illiterate

507 million people not expected to survive to age 40 age 40



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New Internationalist issue 298 magazine cover This article is from the January 1998 issue of New Internationalist.
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