Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 17 October 2019

Half of the world's poor are children, says UN

The UN released the worrying poverty figures on Thursday.

The UNDP is looking at poverty in a more holistic way in the hope of finding new solutions. AFP
The UNDP is looking at poverty in a more holistic way in the hope of finding new solutions. AFP

Half of the world’s poor are children and 20 per cent of people in Arab states are living in poverty, a new study released by the UN today shows.

The Arab countries' poorest state was again Yemen, but statistics from 2013 do not show the intensity of the situation today.

“Yemen and Syria are increasingly likely to be in much worse situations than we find today, but without access to national data we cannot show that,” Sabina Alkire, director of the Oxford Poverty and Human Development Initiative, who worked with the UN Development Programme (UNDP) to publish the report, told The National.

The organisation, along with the UNDP, are now working with the Arab League to better understand the situation and gather statistics.

The new figures show that in the 104 countries classified as low and middle-income countries, 661 million children are considered multi-dimensionally poor, a new measurement used by the UN to assess poverty levels.

The system takes three comprehensive measurements, including health, education and living standards.

“Hundred of millions have escaped poverty and that’s not through luck but programs designed that have enabled them to do so,” said Achim Steiner UNDP administrator.

Mr Steiner said that data and reports, such as the one released today, are integral in solving issues around the world but that not all factors could be taken into account.

Primarily, the report fails to consider refugee camps or account for displaced people - a task UNDP is planning on tackling in future reports.

“Sixty-five million have been forced to flee their homes and the number is going up. These people are becoming statistically invisible, by not being captured by nation data or being outside their countries. We need to address that,” he said.

He added that those who have fled their homes are the most in need of monitoring as they are likely to be desperate for aid and living in considerably worse living conditions in exile.


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The latest figures paint a stark picture of just how many are still left behind by development, but they also demonstrate that progress can happen quickly with the right approach.

Some 1.3 billion people live in multidimensional poverty, which is almost a quarter of the population of the 104 countries for which the 2018 Multi-Dimensional Poverty Index is calculated. Of these 1.3 billion, almost half - 46 percent - are thought to be living in severe poverty and are deprived in at least half of the dimensions covered by the MPI.

But while there is much to be done, there are promising signs that such poverty can be tackled. In India, the first country for which progress over time has been recorded, 271 million people moved out of poverty between 2005/06 and 2015/16. The poverty rate there has nearly halved, falling from 55 percent to 28 percent over the ten-year period.

The report shows that 83 per cent of all poor live in Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia.

Updated: September 21, 2018 05:50 AM