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Index shows ‘staggering’ child poverty

28 September 2018


Children at the Alternative Basic Education (ABE) school at Hafata camp for displaced people, in Baidoa, Somalia, earlier in September. Story-telling tents supported by the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) have motivated Somalian children to pursue formal education, despite setbacks caused by civil strife, poverty and natural disasters

Children at the Alternative Basic Education (ABE) school at Hafata camp for displaced people, in Baidoa, Somalia, earlier in September. Story-telling ...

AT LEAST half of the more than 1.35 billion people in the world living in poverty are children. That is one of the key findings of the 2018 global Multidimensional Poverty Index (MPI).

The index was first developed by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the Oxford Poverty and Human Development Initiative, at Oxford University, in 2010. It is updated every year, and the latest report was published on Thursday of last week.

The 2018 MPI reports “staggering” levels of child poverty worldwide. More than 666 million children are living in multidimensional poverty, it says. Some countries are proportionally worse than others: children account for at least half of the impoverished population in 34 of the 104 developing countries surveyed (about 5.7 billion people, or 75 per cent of the global population).

Multidimensional poverty is calculated by three dimensions: health, education, and living standards. These are sub-divided into ten indicators: nutrition, child mortality, years of schooling, school attendance, cooking fuel, sanitation, drinking water, electricity, housing, and assets.

“Each dimension is equally weighted,” the report explains, “and each indicator within a dimension is also equally weighted. A person is identified as multidimensionally poor if they are deprived of at least one-third of the weighted indicators.”

More than 1.1 billion multidimensionally poor people (82 per cent of the total) live in either Sub-Saharan Africa (560 million) or South Asia (546 million).

In South Sudan and Niger — the poorest regions in Sub-Saharan Africa — 90 per cent of the MPI population are children. Of the total population of children in Sub-Saharan Africa, almost two-thirds are multidimensionally poor. In South Asia, this figure is 39 per cent.

Compared with other countries in the world, India has the largest overall number of people living in multidimensional poverty — 364 million people — despite 271 million people “moving out of poverty” in the past decade. This equates to a cut in poverty-rate from 55 per cent to 28 per cent.

None the less, the overall figure is significantly higher than in Nigeria (97 million), Ethiopia (86 million), Pakistan (85 million), and Bangladesh (67 million).

Multidimensional poverty is also “much more intense” in rural areas, the report says. The split is 1.1 billion to 0.2 billion living in rural and urban areas respectively. The contrast is particularly striking in Sub-Saharan Africa, it says, which also has the highest proportion of people living in “severe poverty” (342 million).

People living in severe poverty are deprived of at least half of the weighted indicators — this group accounts for almost half (46 per cent) of the total multidimensionally poor population.

The administrator of the UNDP, Achim Steiner, said: “The MPI gives insights that are vital for understanding the many ways in which people experience poverty, and it provides a new perspective on the scale and nature of global poverty, while reminding us that eliminating it in all its forms is far from impossible.

“Although the level of poverty — particularly in children — is staggering, so is the progress that can be made in tackling it.”

The index this year has been updated to reflect the Sustainable Development Goals: more specifically, the first goal, “to end poverty in all its forms” and “leave no one behind.” Updates include considering child-stunting and age-specific BMI (body-mass index) cut-offs; child deaths within the five years before the survey; houses with inadequate roofs and walls as well as flooring; and calculating six years, not five, of non-deprived schooling.


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