Life is getting better for world’s poorest – but children bear greatest burden

The UN’s key global poverty index has identified that conditions for the world’s poorest 40% are improving more quickly than for those just above them. The positive trend has been identified in the latest assessment of world poverty collected by the UN Development Programme, which quantifies relative impoverishment across the globe by multiple factors. “We looked at data for a group of 10 middle- and low-income countries and we found encouraging news that the bottom 40% were moving faster than the rest,” said Sabina Alkire, director at the Oxford Poverty and Human Development Initiative, which drew up the report with UNDP. “Within these 10 countries, data show that 270 million people moved out of multidimensional poverty from one survey to the next.” According to the report, the progress was largely driven by south Asia. In India there were 271 million fewer people in poverty in 2016 than in 2006, while in Bangladesh the number dropped by 19 million between 2004 and 2014. Figures for those living in the most extreme poverty, however, tend to be complex, representing a group who move in and out of the most deprived conditions. The new snapshot of global poverty identified 1.3 billion people across the globe that it categorised as “multidimensionally poor”, with more than two-thirds of them – 886 million – living in middle-income countries. revealing vast inequalities among countries and among the poor themselves. “To fight poverty, one needs to know where poor people live. They are not evenly spread across a country, not even within a household,” said UNDP administrator Achim Steiner. The aim of the multidimensional poverty index, published by UNDP on Thursday, is to go beyond using income as the sole indicator for poverty by highlighting other ways in which people experience deprivation. Health, education and standard of living were among the areas investigated with the aim of identifying wide disparities in poverty, even within single households. In south Asia, said the report, almost a quarter of under-fives live in households where at least one child is malnourished and at least one child is not. “We need – even among those living in poverty – to understand people’s different experiences of deprivation. Are they malnourished? Can they go to school? Only then will poverty reduction policies be both efficient and effective,” said Pedro Conceição, director of the UNDP’s human development report office. Results also showed that children suffer poverty more intensely than adults and are more likely to be deprived in all 10 of the study’s indicators, lacking essentials such as clean water, sanitation, adequate nutrition or primary education. Even more staggeringly, one in three children worldwide was found to be multidimensionally poor, compared with one in six adults. That means that nearly half of the people living in multidimensional poverty – 663 million – are children, with the youngest children bearing the greatest burden.

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