Asia & the Pacific
Asia and the Pacific is a region of contrasts. While hundreds of millions of its people have been lifted up from poverty, comparable numbers struggle to survive in conditions of extreme poverty. The region is home to approximately 3.7 billion people, and a large share of the world's poorest. Natural disasters and conflicts pose challenges to achieving development goals.
Asia is experiencing the largest movement of people in the shortest period of time in human history, with urbanization and migration occurring at unprecedented rates. Over half of Asia's rapidly growing urban population will likely be forced to live in slums and informal settlements characterized by a lack of basic services.
Fertility is declining rapidly in the region overall. Some countries are far along the demographic transition and need to be planning for an ageing population. In others, where the population growth rate has slowed down recently, economic opportunities are opening up because of a large working-age population relative to younger and older people. A third group of countries is still dealing with the challenge of high fertility and the demands of meeting the needs of a rapidly growing population.
In many countries, access to high-quality services is uneven, and a large unmet need for family planning and reproductive health services exists. Gross gender disparities persist, especially in south and west Asia, in health, literacy, education, political participation, income and employment. Traditional gender norms, stereotypes and practices allow for discrimination, son preference, prenatal sex selection, forced marriage, gender-based violence and exclusion from political, social and economic participation.
In 2007, nearly 5 million people in Asia were living with HIV. The region shows wide variation in epidemic trends among different countries. For instance, Cambodia, Myanmar and Thailand show declining HIV prevalence, but the epidemic is growing at a particularly high rate in Indonesia and Viet Nam. Although the proportion of people living with HIV in India is lower than previously feared, the epidemic continues to affect some 2.5 million people in that country.