The gender gap (the difference in educational attainment between boys and girls) has also narrowed at all educational levels, with the greatest progress being made in the Arab states, followed by Southeast Asia and Latin America . However, nearly two thirds of the worldâ€™s 840 million illiterate adults are women . In sub-Saharan Africa, the gender gaps in adult literacy and higher education rates are still widening. This situation has serious implications for child health and food security, given that women in rural areas of the region are almost solely responsible for child nutrition and produce up to 80 percent of basic foodstuffs  .
Human health has also improved significantly in recent decades. Globally, average life expectancy has risen to 65 years, and the life expectancy gap between the industrialized and developing countries has almost halved since 1960 . Deadly diseases such as polio, leprosy, and neonatal tetanus may be eradicated in the near future . Infant and child mortality rates have fallen in all regions. Despite this progress, infectious diseases remain the leading cause of death of children under age 5 worldwide, and new diseases such as acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS) and new varieties of hemorrhagic fevers have emerged . Unfortunately, the least developed countries have experienced the smallest gains in key indicators of human health, and the gap between them and developing countries as a whole is widening.
Investment in Public Education and Health
Despite the evidence that public and private expenditures on basic social services appear to bring the greatest returns on capital in terms of promoting GDP growth, investment levels have risen slowly or erratically in recent decades. Public expenditures on education have fallen, as a proportion of gross national product, in many world regions since the 1980s. Military budgets have also fallen in much of the developing world but are still comparable with those for education .
Public financing of health and education is increasingly augmented by private investment. In many industrialized countries, governments are faced with looming fiscal crises brought on by the expanding demands of comprehensive welfare systems. Individuals are therefore being required either to contribute more to state education and health systems or to seek private alternatives. Citizens in many developing countries are also required to foot much of the bill for social services, but far fewer of them are in a position to do so. Among low-income countries, for example, private sources account for 80 percent of total education spending in Haiti and nearly 60 percent in Uganda and Vietnam . In such situations, the poor majority of the population have quite limited educational opportunities.
There is, as yet, no evidence of a significant trend to shift spending toward basic social service provision in sub-Saharan Africa, where public expenditures are most skewed . Raising the level of investment in human capital there, and in parts of south Asia and Latin America, will be essential if the current downward spiral of poverty, underemployment, and resource degradation is to be reversed. However, some governments in these regions are beginning to spend more on primary education and health care, and these programs provide encouraging examples for others to follow. A number of countries have achieved far greater improvements in human development than are usual for their income level, thanks to enlightened policies that address the needs of the broad majority of their citizens.
Kerala State, in India, is an apt example. Despite quite low income and productivity growth since 1970, Keralaâ€™s citizens enjoy a life expectancy on a par with Hungary and literacy rates comparable with those in Norway. By 1991, the fertility rate had dropped to 1.8 children per woman, below the replacement rate . Almost all villagers now have access to a school and a modern health clinic within a radius of 2.5 kilometers. Newspapers and telecommunication facilities are also available in the great majority of villages. These successes are the result of a strong political commitment to mass education and health care dating back to the 19th Century. Important support has come from social policies that have achieved relatively equitable land distribution, an efficient food distribution system, and a breakdown of the restrictive caste system. Attitudes toward women are enlightened; girls outnumber boys in higher education, and Kerala has appointed the first female chief justice, surgeon general, and chief engineer in India. Social investment appears to be paying off. Keralaâ€™s annual growth rate in per capita income was almost twice that of India between 1987 and 1992.  
References and notes
6. United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), Human Development Report 1995 (UNDP, New York, 1995), p. 29.
7. Op. cit. 2, p. 30.
8. Op. cit. 2, p. 30.
9. Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), Women Feed the World, FAO Factsheet for World Food Summit (FAO, Rome, 1996).
10. World Resources Institute (WRI), World Resources Database 1998-99, on diskette (WRI, Washington, D.C., 1998).
11. World Health Organization (WHO), The World Health Report 1996 (WHO, Geneva, 1996), p. v.
12. Ibid., pp. 14-16.
13. Op. cit. 2, pp. 226-227.
14. The World Bank, World Development Report 1997 (The World Bank, Washington, D.C., 1997), p. 55.
15. Hans P. Binswanger and Pierre Landell-Mills, The World Bank’s Strategy for Reducing Poverty and Hunger: A Report to the Development Community, Environmentally Sustainable Development Studies and Monographs Series No. 4 (The World Bank, Washington, D.C., 1995), p. 22.
16. Leela Visaria and Pravin Visaria, “India’s Population in Transition,” Population Bulletin, Vol. 50, No. 3 (1995), p. 22.
17. Op. cit. 4, p. 81.
18. Mohammad Basheer, “Kerala: Health and Education Progress Despite Poverty,” in The Norwegian Forum for Environment and Development, An Unwanted Child Has Grown Up, report from the New Development Options Conference (The Norwegian Forum for Environment and Development, Oslo, 1995), pp. 14-17.