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5 Important Facts About Extreme Poverty Everyone Should Know


Why Global Citizens Should Care
Extreme poverty impacts hundreds of millions of people all over the world. Global Goal 1 aims to eradicate global poverty by 2030 so that every person can achieve their full potential. Join us and take action here.

Extreme poverty is more than just living without an income or shelter. It can also mean living without access to education, dealing with disrcimination, and becoming malnourished. 

While fewer people are currently living in extreme poverty today than ever before, there is still a long way to go before the Global Goal of ending poverty by 2030 can be achieved.

Here are some important facts from the 2019 Sustainable Development Goals report and the World Bank’s 2018 Poverty and Shared Prosperity report that highlight the importance of the continued fight to end extreme poverty by 2030.

1. Extreme poverty is defined as living on less than $1.90 per day.

Living in extreme poverty means surviving on less than $1.90 a day in low-income countries, according to the World Bank. Since the poverty line varies from nation to nation, the World Bank also defines extreme poverty as living on less than $3.20 in middle-income countries and $5.50 in wealthier ones.

Around 10% of the world is currently living on the equivalent of $1.90 a day. Most of the people living below the global poverty line reside in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia and many are children. The root causes of poverty are often an overall lack of basic necessities, discrimination and exclusion, bad governance, conflict and crisis, a lack of access to social services, climate change, and the cycle of poverty itself, according to World Vision.

2. 10% of the world’s population was living in extreme poverty as of 2015.

Around 736 million people, or 10% of the world’s population, were living below the international poverty line as of 2015, according to the most recent estimate by the World Bank. This number decreased from 11% in 2013 and 16% in 2010.

While the global poverty rate has fallen by 36% since 1990, the pace of this decline has reduced. The new goal for the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development is to have no more than 3% of the world’s population living below the international poverty line by the end of the decade.

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3. 413 million people living in extreme poverty are in sub-Saharan Africa.

Sub-Saharan Africa currently has more people living in extreme poverty than in any other singular region, with 413 million people (42% of the population) living below the poverty line. This number has risen significantly since 2002, when the region was home to less than a quarter of those living below the global poverty line.

In comparison, most regions around the world have a poverty rate below 13%. Conflict and population growth are the main factors behind this high poverty rate. In war-torn countries like Somalia and South Sudan, violence often leads to infrastructure damage, institutional fragility, displacement, unemployment, and inflation, all of which contribute to extreme poverty. Meanwhile, households in sub-Saharan Africa continue to grow, but the number of family members in the workforce remains stagnant, making it difficult for many families to rise above the poverty line.

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4. 79% of those living in extreme poverty live in rural areas.

A majority of the world’s poorest populations live in rural and agricultural areas, according to the 2019 Sustainable Development Goals report. The rural poverty rate is 17.2%, more than three times higher than the rate in urban and suburban regions. There are several social, economic, and environmental factors that contribute to rural poverty. For example, a lack of diversification of rural economies, social exclusion and discrimination in rural commnunities, an overall loss of biodiversity, and climate change are all elements that can lead to the elevated rate of poverty in rural areas. 

5. Extreme poverty disproportionately affects children.

Around 46% of those living in poverty are children under the age of 14. Even children and young adults in the workforce aged 15 to 24 are twice as likely to end up living below the global poverty line than employed adults. As of 2013, 385 million children were living in extreme poverty around the world, according to a 2016 UNICEF report. Children are most at risk in rural regions and in countries undergoing violent conflict and political instability.

In order to lift millions of children out of poverty, governments, world leaders, and humanitarian organizations must invest in early childhood development programs, schools, health care, sanitation, and prenatal services, especially in regions with the largest populations of those living in extreme poverty, like South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa. 

To end extreme poverty by 2030, the world must secure $350 billion annually to help close the gap among the world’s poorest nations. Global Citizen’s campaign Global Goal Live: The Possible Dream aims to do just that. In partnership with Teneo, the campaign will mobilize governments, organizations, and citizens alike to ensure the goal of ending global poverty within 10 years is achieved.