1.6 Billion People Are Poor, 638 Million Are Destitute, They Experience Extreme Deprivation, They Have Almost Nothing
An Oxford University study to identify the multidimensionally poor in the developing world has found that in 49 countries half of the poor are so deprived that they should be classed as ‘destitute’. The researchers’ global multidimensional poverty index or MPI measures overlapping deprivations in health, education and living standards, with the ‘destitute’ experiencing extreme deprivation. This latter group is defined according to more extreme criteria such as having lost two children, having someone who is severely malnourished at home, or having no assets at all.
The global Multidimensional Poverty Index (MPI) is an international measure of acute poverty covering over 100 developing countries. It complements traditional income-based poverty measures by capturing the severe deprivations that each person faces at the same time with respect to education, health and living standards.
Credit: Global MPI 2014 pages
The study highlights the fact that, despite the situation improving for many due to poverty reduction programmes and economic growth, there is still a formidable core of extremely poor people. This finding has implications for an international goal of eliminating poverty, widely mooted as achievable by 2030. The largest numbers of destitute people, 420 million, were found in the countries of South Asia: in India alone, drawing on the most recent official figures available, the Oxford researchers calculate there were around 343 million destitute people. 200 million destitute people were found in 24 countries of Sub-Saharan Africa: the highest proportion of destitute people was found in Niger in where over two-thirds (68.8%) of the population were considered destitute.
The good news is that where data over time are available, the study by the Oxford Poverty and Human Development Initiative (OPHI) found that policies aimed at reducing poverty were working, particularly for the destitute in the poorest countries. Of 34 countries for which there are data, the largest reductions in destitution were in Ethiopia, followed by Niger, Ghana, Bolivia, Rwanda, Tanzania, Nepal, Haiti, Bangladesh and Zambia (all low income or least developed countries except Ghana and Bolivia). In Ethiopia, the share of destitute people was reduced by 30 percentage points between 2000 and 2011, say the researchers.
OPHI’s Director Dr Sabina Alkire, from the Oxford Department of International Development, commented: ‘There is a growing international consensus that we have to put an end to the worst forms of poverty and this should be the target for the new development agenda. While the successes of poorer countries show progress is being made, these findings show that for now, destitution – with all the grinding hardship it entails – remains a grim reality for hundreds of millions of people. Renewed efforts are needed post-2015 to ensure those in deepest poverty are not left behind.’
The global multidimensional poverty index (MPI) is unique in capturing the simultaneous disadvantages experienced by poor people, such as malnutrition, education and sanitation, providing a high-resolution lens on their lives. If people are deprived in one-third or more of ten (weighted) indicators, they are identified as MPI-poor.
In 2014, the global MPI covered a total of 108 countries which are home to 78% of the world’s population. Some 30% of them – 1.6 billion people – are identified as multidimensionally poor. Of these 1.6 billion, 85% live in rural areas, which is a markedly higher percentage than income poverty estimates of 70-75%. Most live in South Asia (52%), followed by Sub-Saharan Africa (29%), and most – 71% – live in middle income countries.
A destitute person in the new study is MPI-poor, and is also deprived in a third or more of the same weighted indicators, according to more extreme criteria: for example, where no one in the household has completed at least one year of schooling; or two or more children in the household have died. Two-thirds of destitute people have someone at home with severe malnutrition. Some 40% of the destitute have a round trip of 45 minutes to find safe water by foot, if they have access to it at all. Over 80% have a dirt floor, and more than 90% have no proper sanitation and have to relieve themselves outside, with all the vulnerability, fear and shame this entails, particularly for women.
The Global MPI in 2014 covers 108 developing countries. Our analyses of multidimensional poverty across those countries span a number of topics:
1) Destitution: In 2014 Oxford researchers used more extreme MPI indicators to shine a light on hundreds of millions of people who each day face grinding hardships difficult for most of us to imagine: the destitute, or poorest of the poor. Across 49 countries analysed so far, half of MPI poor people are destitute; over 638 million people. The good news is that where data are available, researchers saw strong progress being made to improve the lives of the destitute, particularly in the poorest countries. Read more.
2) Dynamics: The study looks at how multidimensional poverty changed in 34 countries covering 2.5 billion people, documenting trends in poverty and destitution across and within those countries, and according to different kinds of deprivation. They discovered that the countries which reduced MPI poverty and destitution the most in absolute terms were mostly Low Income and Least Developed Countries, with Nepal making the fastest progress. Read more.
3) Rural-urban comparisons: Their rural-urban analysis found that of the 1.6 billion people identified as MPI poor, 85% live in rural areas – significantly higher than income poverty estimates of 70-75%. We also analyse changes over time by rural and urban regions for 34 countries, looking at the level and composition of that change by each of the Global MPI’s 10 indicators. Read more.
4) Inequality: Poverty reduction is not necessarily uniform across all poor people in a country, or across population subgroups; an improvement overall may yet leave the poorest of the poor behind. In 2014 we use a new measure to analyse inequality among poor people in 90 countries, and find the highest levels are to be found in 15 Sub-Saharan African countries; in Pakistan, India and Afghanistan; and in Yemen and Somalia.
Infographics showing extensive MPI data on the level and composition of poverty are downloadable for 780 subnational regions on the OPHI website.
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