Over 500 Million Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asian Children are Multidimensionally Poor – Report

Women of the Dogon ethnic group carrying baskets of harvested millet back to their village – Mali

No fewer than 1.3 billion people, including over 500 million children in Sub-Saharan Africa or South Asia, are multi-dimensionally poor across 109 countries, said the UN Development Programme (UNDP) and the Oxford Poverty and Human Development Initiative in a new report.

The global Multidimensional Poverty Index (MPI), released on Thursday by the agencies, showed that differences in multidimensional poverty among ethnic groups are consistently high.

MPI also found that in nine specific ethnic groups surveyed, more than 90 per cent of the population was trapped in poverty.

According to the report, across the 109 countries studied, a total of 1.3 billion people are multi-dimensionally poor.

“About half of them or 644 million, are children under age 18; and nearly 85 per cent live in Sub-Saharan Africa or South Asia (547400000). More than 67 per cent live in middle-income countries.

“Living in multi-dimensional poverty can mean very different things.’’

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One billion people, for example, are exposed to health risks due to solid cooking fuels, another billion have inadequate sanitation, and yet another billion live in substandard housing, according to the report.

The study added that nearly 788 million people live in households with at least one undernourished individual, and approximately 568 million do not have access to improved drinking water within 30 minutes of walking.

UNDP Administrator, Achim Steiner, said, “this is a reminder of the need for a complete picture of how people are being affected by poverty, who they are and where they live.”

Steiner also highlighted the COVID-19 pandemic factor, saying that the international community was “still grappling to understand its full impacts.”

Although multidimensional poverty remained high, the report noted there were signs of progress in some countries, at least until the beginning of the pandemic.

“Of the 80 nations and five billion people for which there is data over time, 70 reduced their Multidimensional Poverty Index in at least one period. The fastest changes happened in Sierra Leone and Togo.”

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The director of OPHI at the University of Oxford, Sabina Alkire, stressed the need to fix the structural inequalities that oppress and hinder progress.

Alkire further stressed that disaggregating multidimensional poverty data by ethnicity, race, caste and gender, “unmask disparities and forms a vital guide to policymakers to leave no one behind in the last decade for action.”

In proposing solutions to this problem, the authors cited the example of two of the poorest ethnic groups in the Gambia, who have the same value on the index but different deprivations, and suggested that different policy measures were necessary to find effective solutions.

Globally, the report pointed out that two-thirds of multidimensionally poor people, or 836 million people, lived in households where no women or girls had completed at least six years of schooling.

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In addition, almost 215 million of these people live in households where a boy or man has completed six years or more of school, but no girl or woman has.

These women and girls are also significantly more likely to be victims of intimate partner violence, according to the report.

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