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East Asia and the Pacific

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Growth and Poverty Reduction
  • The East Asia and Pacific Region (EAP) is one of the main drivers of global poverty reduction. With spectacular growth in the past decade, EAP is set to reduce the number of people in extreme poverty to 2.4 percent by 2015 (far surpassing the 15 percent target).
  • The absolute number of people in extreme poverty in East Asia has declined from 226.8 million (2002) to 169.1 million (2004).
  • Per capita GDP growth in the low-income countries of EAP is estimated to be 4.7 percent in 2006. China remains a star performer with an estimated per capita growth of 9.1 percent in 2006. But rising inequality is a concern.

Region's progress toward the poverty MDG target 1990 - 2004, a 2015 forecast

 Poverty Graph EAP

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Fragile states

  • Vietnam, no longer a fragile state, has begun market-oriented economic reform.
  • Timor-Leste, one of EAP’s remaining fragile states, lost 70 percent of its health facilities during the withdrawal of Indonesian troops. Some health facilities there have been restored. The initial success of a strategy that involved public sector-NGO collaboration in delivering short-term needs and long-term investment in a national health system may hold lessons for donors working in other fragile states.


  • EAP has almost achieved the 2005 target of eliminating gender disparity in primary and secondary education. All girls were in primary school in the early 1990s. Parity at the secondary level has been achieved with recent gains in girls’ enrollment. However, a gender disadvantage remains for girls’ tertiary education.
  • Nearly 80 percent of women (aged 24-49) are part of EAP’s labor force. In 2005, women’s share in non-agricultural wage work (an indicator of how open labor markets in industry and service sectors are to women) was a high 39 percent.
  • The share of women in the national parliament remains very low. The regional average has only increased from 18 percent (1990) to nearly 19 percent (2005).
  • Prenatal sex selection has led to a skewed sex ratio in East Asia, with boys outnumbering girls among those aged 0-4. In China, the sex ratio at birth was around 107 males per 100 females in 1982 (the “normal” ratio is 104-106 males per 100 females in most populations), rising sharply as sex-selective abortion spread in the mid-1980s, and reaching nearly 120 males per 100 females by 2005.
Progress toward the Human Development MDGs

East Asia is close to achieving the goal of universal primary completion. In addition, the region is almost on track to reduce child mortality, though the regional average disguises wide variation between countries, with more than half the countries being off-track. Some countries have substantially improved maternal health.


  • The region has some countries that are off-track on the nutrition target. The highest levels of malnutrition (underweight children under age five) are seen in Cambodia (45 percent in 2000), Indonesia (28 percent in 2000), Lao PDR (40 percent in 2000), and the Philippines (28 percent in 2003).
  • Vietnam shows strong progress with nutrition—reducing the share of underweight children under five from 45 percent (early 1990s) to 28 percent (2003).

Universal Primary Completion

  • EAP has recorded strong gains in this area when compared with other regions.
  • Cambodia has progressed rapidly, expanding primary completion from 46.6 percent (2000) to 92.3 percent (2005), an annual increase of nearly 15 percent.
  • Indonesia has reached universal primary completion.

Child Mortality

  • Strong progress has been made toward reducing child mortality in several countries. Timor-Leste and Lao PDR are the only fragile states in the world that are on track to reach the child mortality reduction goal.
  • Timor-Leste reduced the under-five mortality rates from 177 per 1,000 live births in 1990 to 107 in 2000 and 61 in 2005, an annual decline of 7.1 percent. Vietnam reduced the rate from 53 per 1,000 live births to 19 in the same period, an annual decline of 6.8 percent. Mongolia and Lao PDR also made strong progress (annual declines of 5.3 percent and 4.8 percent, respectively, from 1990 to 2005).

Maternal Mortality

Indonesia & Vietnam: Impressive progress with assisted childbirth
Some countries have substantially improved maternal health. Indonesia has made impressive progress in caring for women during childbirth, increasing the share of births assisted by medically trained attendants from 49.1 percent in 1997 to 66.2 percent in 2002/2003, an annual expansion of over 17 percent.

Vietnam recorded strong progress, moving from 77 percent of births attended by trained attendants in 1997 to over 90 percent in 2004.

 Photo: Tran Thi Hoa 

Combating Diseases

  • The first signs of declining HIV prevalence at the national level have been recorded in fewer than 10 countries worldwide, including Thailand and Cambodia. Thailand’s experience is instructive: early government action focused on prevention in high risk groups and making antiretroviral therapy affordable.
  • Some countries still report low protection against malaria. In 2000, only 57.3 percent of under-five children in the poorest quintile in Cambodia used insecticide-treated bed nets, compared with over 80 percent in the richest quintile.
Sharp reduction in TB in Cambodia and Indonesia

High-incidence countries with high levels of Directly Observed Treatment, Short-Course (DOTS) coverage have shown recent large decreases in TB incidence. Cambodia reduced TB incidence from 584 per 100,000 people in 1990 to 510 in 2004, while Indonesia fell from 343 per 100,000 people to 245 in the same period.

Using Resources Wisely

  • EAP is almost on track for the water and sanitation targets, but rapid urbanization is posing a challenge for the provision of water and other public utilities.
  • Vietnam has made strong progress, increasing access to improved water supply from 65 percent of its population in 1990 to 85 percent in 2004, and access to improved sanitation from 36 percent in 1990 to 61 percent in 2004.
  • China is the world’s second-largest emitter of carbon dioxide from fossil fuel combustion and cement manufacture.

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  • Global emissions of CO2 from burning fossil fuels and manufacturing cement rose by 4 billion metric tons between 1990 and 2003.
  • Most of the increase was in high income countries (2.09 billion metric tons) and East Asia and the Pacific (2.07 billion metric tons).
  • China’s emissions per capita have grown by 30 percent between 1990 and 2002 (though this is still a fraction of high-income countries’ levels.)


The Role of Quality in MDG Progress

While expanding access to education and health remains extremely important, quality plays a critical role.

  • Developing countries are experimenting with stronger performance incentives in public health systems. One approach is to contract private providers for health services delivery. The first, most rigorously evaluated case is in Cambodia, from which Loevinsohn and Harding (2005) conclude that contracting for primary health services has been effective and can produce rapid improvements.
Official Development Assistance
  • ODA to the region increased in 2005 by about a third, recovering to levels seen in 2002 and earlier. Indonesia received much of the increase, most of which was humanitarian aid following the December 2004 tsunami.
  • Vietnam continued to be one of the biggest recipients of ODA ($1.9 billion). Only Indonesia received more ($2.5 billion). Vietnam has also made strong progress in taking actions to harmonize and align the aid programs of many donors.

Aid from Korea and China

Several non-DAC donors (some from East Asia) are increasing aid to poor countries.

The Republic of Korea tripled its ODA between 2001 and 2005, and has ambitious plans to continue scaling up. China was the third-largest food aid donor in the world in 2005 and is becoming a leading foreign creditor to Africa.


Photo: Curt Carnemark

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