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Brazil may not achieve the UN Millennium Development Goals because parts of the country bordering the Amazon river are lagging behind, according to a Brazilian nongovernmental organisation.

The UN Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) are commitments by UN member states to improve socio-economic and environmental conditions in developing countries by 2015.

The report, published this month (1 April) by the Amazon Institute of People and the Environment (IMAZON), evaluated progress in states that make up the Amazon basin ― Acre, Amapa, Amazonas, Maranhao, Mato Grosso, Pará, Rondônia, Roraima and Tocantins.

Brazil's ability to reach the MDGs depends heavily on improvements in these states.

"This region is different from the rest of Brazil. It fits the profile of an underdeveloped region," says IMAZON researcher Adalberto Veríssimo.

The researchers evaluated progress on 17 indicators relating to 7 of the 8 MDGs between 1990 and 2005. They found that Amazon states are behind the national average for most indicators, including education, poverty, sanitation, malaria cases, and child and maternal mortality.

Alfredo Homma, soil and crop scientist at the Brazilian Agricultural Research Corporation (EMBRAPA), says one reason for the region's slow progress is low investment in infrastructure, science and technology.

"While the other states advance, the gap becomes even larger," he told SciDev.Net.

One of the MDGs is "to halt and begin to reverse the spread of HIV/AIDS". The IMAZON report shows that HIV/AIDS incidence has increased from 1.2 to 12.4 cases per 100 thousand people over the period measured.

"The improvement of diagnostic services can partly explain such high variation. But the number has certainly increased," says IMAZON researcher Danielle Celentano.

Another goal is to ensure environmental sustainability. Although 42 per cent of Amazonian territory is now protected ― up from 8.5 per cent in 1990 ― deforestation in the Amazon increased from 10 per cent of the total area to 17 per cent by 2005.

"If there are no economic alternatives for the people, deforestation will continue as a matter of survival," says Homma.

Nearly all of Brazil's malaria cases are also in the Amazon region, and although the incidence has dropped from 3,000 to 2,000 per 100,000 people, these rates are still considered high.

The proportion of people living below poverty line ― 45 per cent of people live on less than US$2 a day ― has stayed the same. But in absolute numbers, the number of people has increased from 7.4 million to 10.1 million.

The proportion with sustainable access to safe drinking water increased from 48 per cent to 68 per cent. At this pace, the authors calculate that this particular goal ― to reduce the proportion without access to safe drinking water by half ― will only be reached in 2018, three years after the target date.

At present, the only goal the researchers believe will be achieved by 2015 is to reduce the mortality rate of under-fives by two-thirds.

Full text of study on the Imazon website