Manila, Philippines (BBN) – Asia and Pacific countries continue to make broad progress in reducing extreme poverty but hunger still remains widespread and many economies are struggling to meet other Millennium Development Goals (MDG).

The data were announced on Wednesday in Key Indicators 2009, the Asian Development Bank’s (ADB) flagship annual statistical publication. It presents the latest available economic, financial, social, environmental, and MDG indicators for regional members of the ADB.

Over the past 15 years, Asia has made rapid progress in the fight against poverty, reducing the number of poor from around one in two people to around one in four. However, large pockets of extreme poverty continue to persist even as many economies have posted record growth rates over that time.

The region is facing serious challenges on goals linked to sanitation and maternal mortality. The indicators show that maternal mortality rates remain unacceptably high in many countries such as Afghanistan, Cambodia, and Nepal, while more than a quarter of urban households in 13 countries still lack access to improved sanitation.

The region’s fast growth in recent years has also put severe strains on the environment, with developing Asian countries becoming heavy contributors to greenhouse gas emissions, the ADB said.

Key Indicators 2009 regional tables, covering economic, financial, and social development indicators, provide further insights into the overall health of the region.

The latest available data show that a growing number of people aged 65 or over is expected to put an increasing strain on health and welfare infrastructure going forward while per capita incomes show that the gap between rich and poor countries remains wide. Inflows of foreign direct investment fell sharply in a number of economies last year as a result of the global economic crisis, while registering new businesses remains a lengthy process in some countries.

BBN/SS/SI/AD-26August09-1:16 pm (BST)