The report, titled SAARC Regional Poverty Profile, underlined that still 32 percent of South Asian people live on less than USD 1.25 per person a day.

"While some countries of the region may be near achieving the millennium development goal of halving the proportion of people in extreme poverty by 2015, the region in general has still high incidences of poverty, hunger and malnutrition," said the report.

Food production has improved considerably over time in all countries of the region, but inter-country and intra-country variations persist. For instance, India is self-sufficient in all major food items except pulses and edible oils, while Pakistan is self-sufficient in wheat and rice.

Nepal, whose index of per capita food production has improved marginally, still depends on import for most of its food items including cereals, pulses and fish, while Bangladesh is more or less self-sufficient in rice but imports wheat.

Afghanistan, Bhutan and the Maldives depend on import of most food items to meet their domestic demand, while Sri Lanka meets nearly 99 percent of its rice requirements internally but imports 97 percent of its demand for pulses.

Addressing a function, Nepal's Interim Election Council chief Khil Raj Regmi said that youth, women and small farmers have to be mainstreamed and empowered to address the food security issue and achieve the over-arching goal of poverty alleviation in the region.

Caitlin Wiesen, manager of the United Nations Development Programme for Asia Pacific Region, said that most of the world's poor, some 540 million in number, live in South Asia and therefore, wise and concentrated efforts are needed to address this massive problem.


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