The UN says lifting 100 million people out of poverty by 2025 is still possible inspite of recession threat.
A UN poverty study released on Monday shows that significant poverty reduction is possible, and new ways of calculating the problem can help humanitarians and governments better target aid.
The report was released to commemorate the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty, celebrated annually on Oct. 17.
The report- The Multidimensional Poverty Index (MPI)- reveals that significant poverty reduction is possible, and new ways of calculating the problem could help humanitarians and governments better target aid.
MPI was jointly analysed by the UN Development Programme, UNDP, and the Oxford Poverty and Human Development Initiative, OPHI, at the University of Oxford.
The report goes beyond measuring poverty as a measurement of poverty, and looks at other indicators, from access to education and health, to living standards such as housing, drinking water, sanitation and electricity.
Using this way of calculating the issue, the study shows that, even before the COVID-19 pandemic and the current cost-of-living crisis are accounted for, some 1.2 billion people in 111 developing countries are living in acute multidimensional poverty – nearly double the number who are seen as poor when poverty is defined as living on less than 1.90 dollars per day.
Because there are different aspects of poverty in different regions, the study calls for the development of strategies that tackle the issue to be tailored to specific countries and regions.
It also identifies recurring patterns of poverty (“deprivation bundles”), that commonly affect those at risk. For example, more than half of those living in poverty lack both electricity and clean cooking fuel, whilst a third are deprived of nutrition, cooking fuel, sanitation and housing at the same time.
The experience of families in Lao PDR, for example, shows the interconnected nature of living in poverty, and the complexity of reducing it.
Children are sent to collect firewood because of a lack of cooking fuel, so they can’t go to school. Simply providing funds to build a school would, therefore, make no sense, without first fixing the fuel problem.
Inspite of the scale of the challenge, significant improvements have been made in reducing poverty.
Reacting to the findings, Achim Steiner, the head of UNDP, said that, at a time when government budgets are being squeezed, cutting-edge data and analytics can pinpoint the areas where spending will have the most impact.
For example, the report shows, he said, “decarbonisation and expanding access to clean energies will advance climate action, and is also critical for nearly 600 million multidimensionally poor people who still lack access to electricity and clean cooking fuel.”
The study, he continued, will be “vital to inform UNDP’s efforts across the globe as we work with our partners from the United Nations and beyond to reach our bold objective of helping lift 100 million people out of multidimensional poverty by the year 2025”.
Before the pandemic hit, 72 countries had significantly reduced poverty. Yet the report anticipates that some of the efforts to end poverty in line with Sustainable Development Goals are likely to have been derailed as a result of recent overlapping crises.
Identifying poverty profiles relies on a solid evidence base of data on poverty in all its dimensions and the report stresses the need to resume efforts to regularly update poverty data, especially in the poorest countries and in the places where the poorest people live.
“The MPI is a vital complement to monetary measures of poverty because it illuminates deprivation bundles directly” Sabina Alkire, Director of OPHI at the University of Oxford, said.
“Our hope is that this year’s data on deprivation bundles will enable responses to surge ahead with extra determination and laser precision to reduce acute poverty in these turbulent times.”
In his message marking the Day, the UN Secretary-General, António Guterres, warned that the goal of eradicating poverty is being undermined, and “the world is moving backwards”.
The UN chief declared that the COVID-19 pandemic set back more than four years of progress, and also cited widening inequality, the “gathering shadow” of a global recession, and the climate crisis as reasons for the faltering efforts.
Guterres said that the theme for this year’s Day – “Dignity for all in practice” – must be a rallying cry for urgent global action, to finally “consign poverty to the pages of history”.