New UN report challenges notions of where poor live

World Today

A staggering 1.3 billion people across 101 developing nations are extremely poor, according to a new report from the United Nations. Half are under 18-years-old, and one-third are children. CGTN’s Liling Tan has details.

In Pakistan, one of the poorest nations in South Asia, more than one out of three children under five-years-old do not have equal access to nutrition at home, compared with at least one other sibling.

“Forty percent of these multidimensionally-poor that we describe in this report happen to be children,” Achim Steiner, administrator of the UN Development Programme said. “What the report also shows is that children are disproportionately affected by poverty, and that explains also why in some households you may have a child that is malnourished and their sibling is not malnourished.” 

Apart from nutrition, the Multidimensional Poverty Index also looks at child mortality rates, schooling, and access to basic necessities like fuel, sanitation, drinking water, and electricity, to provide a more comprehensive measure of extreme poverty beyond just income levels.

“Consider two households, both of which are non-income pool, so they make enough money to move them up above the poverty, whether it’s an international or national poverty line,” Pedro Conceição, director of the Human Development Report Office at the UNDP said. “But whether they are linked to an electricity grid, to water mains, to sewage systems, makes a huge difference in people’s lives and that’s not captured by the level of income.“

To put it simply, the index measures extreme poverty based more on what a person or family needs, rather than what they earn. By using these expanded metrics to measure extreme poverty, the UN Development Program and its partners hope to show how people experience the lack of access to basic necessities and the vast inequalities among nations. But they also hope to make the case that our traditional concept of rich and poor nations has been an oversimplification, and an outdated one at that. 

South Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa remain the poorest regions, with poverty levels highest in South Sudan, Niger, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Bangladesh. But surprisingly, two-thirds of the world’s poorest people — more than 886 million — live in middle-income countries, rather than in lower-income nations. 

“Too many people still are poor, and these poor people — and this is what the report shows — live amongst us,” said Steiner. “They live us in our countries. They live among us in our communities, and they even live among us in our families and households.” 

The UNDP hopes the more in-depth and comprehensive data can provide a clearer picture of how people experience poverty, to help nations guide policy towards ending it.