top of page

Extreme poverty causes ,impacts and efforts

According to the World Bank a person earning $1.9 or less daily is said to be extremely poor but people even earning slightly higher than this threshold who are not able to meet their basic need like food, home and clothes are also living in abject poverty. In the 19th century the poverty rate was almost 100% but due to boom in agriculture and industrial revolution and continuous global economic growth and government’s welfare measures it has come down to around 11%.So absolute number of people living in abject poverty now is around 750 million people worldwide. The distribution is not symmetric but varies across different regions, nations, sections, castes and communities .The development level of a nation has strong impact on poverty and related socio-economic problems.

The underdeveloped and developing countries with high population have more extreme poverty than developed nations. The boom in population growth with under developing nature of economy is also responsible for large poor people. The nation having huge population with limited capacity to meet basic requirements of people not only have worse living standards but also put pressure on environment resources.

If we look into poverty data currently African nations are having extreme poverty especially sub Saharan region (Congo, Chad, and Niger).The continuous economic growth in East Asia and South Asia have lifted millions of people from poverty. Till recently India was home to largest poor people but with economic development in last 15-20 years and welfare measures country did outstanding work to lift her major chunk of people from poverty. But still around 27% population of India live in poverty and it is hoped that the continuous efforts will bring these numbers to minimum level. Now Nigeria with population boom and low level of per capita income is the leading nation when it comes to extreme poverty.

Extreme poverty is not only concern for underdeveloped or least developed nations but also for developed regions like North America, Europe and Australian geographical regions. The definition of poverty is not same, it varies according to different governments and organizations but what we believe that people who are not able to meet their basic needs and don’t have freedom to make choices are living in extreme poverty.  

The factors behind poverty are not identical for all nations and vary according to different level of development of the economy and political system. The political factors are high inequality, conflict among different sections of the society, discrimination, unequal opportunities, bureaucratic hurdles and high level of corruption. For an example, in Syria due to conflict and war many million people including women and children are misplaced and thrown into poverty trap and living in refugee camps. In India high level of illiteracy, population explosion, limited capacity of the state and rigid caste system are some of the main factors behind extreme poverty.

One of the main causes of extreme poverty is the mismatch between population growth and rate of employment generation. India is going through demographic dividend and there are maximum populations of youth in the country who are in search of employment. According to World Bank, India needs to create 8.1 million jobs every year to keep the pace with the population growth.

The lack of social infrastructure like proper sanitation facilities, quality educational institutes, health and drinking water services further push the poor and helpless people in poverty trap. The open defection and bad hygienic conditions are mostly responsible for many types of diseases and epidemics. The polluted drinking water too causes many life threatening diseases. The high inflation rate and expensive health care further increase the problems of poor people.

In developing countries most of the people live in rural areas and engaged in agriculture. With rising population and reducing land share, low productivity and high cost of agriculture inputs make agriculture unprofitable. The local money lenders exploit the small and marginal farmers because there is lack of banking network. The poor people are forced to borrow money from moneylenders who charge very high rate of interest. With crop failures and low price of the crops the net outcome of their produce is minimal and they are trapped into debt and ultimately they will have to sell their land. They are forced to migrate towards urban areas where they live in slums and pity conditions and work as daily wage earners.

The global climate change and extreme climatic conditions like frequent drought, floods and untimely rain leads to crop failure. The crop insurance network in developing world has not developed fully. Farmers generally lack the finance and insurance knowledge hence they don’t get benefits when they are in dire need of the finances. The social security net has not fully developed in developing nations because of lack of capacity of these nations.

The high level of corruption is too responsible for the misery of the poor people. The full benefits of the social welfare schemes are not reached to them. The big farmers and influential people take full advantage of farm subsidies at the cost of poor people.

Around 2 billion people are malnourished worldwide and lack healthy life. It causes 2.6 million children deaths every year. Malnutrition rate is very high in developing and least developed countries. The malnutrition is responsible for undergrowth, unhealthy work force and many diseases especially in young children. It contributes to around 11% to world diseases. India is home to 1/3rd malnourished children of the world. Half of these children (under 3 years) are under weight and 1/3rd is over nourished. Around 3000 children die every day due to malnutrition in India. India is facing acute problem of stunted growth, diarrhea, and pneumonia in children and are major causes of children who are under the five years of age. 

More than 51% Indian women of productive age are suffering from anemia. The main causes of such high level anemia are lack of food, nutrition, early marriage and other societal causes. Almost 50% adult girls of India are anemic. The iron deficiency and anemia causes 50% maternal deaths in India.

The sub Saharan area of Africa is most poor area. The HIV infection, Ebola and other epidemics along with low per capita income in Congo, Chad and Niger countries are major reasons of extreme poverty and large number of deaths.

So we have seen that extreme poverty is largely man-made disaster and can be eradicated from the world if proper policies and programs are taken by the governments, international agencies and nongovernmental organizations. To fight the extreme poverty and other global issues the United Nations General assembly adopted 17 sustainable development goals (SDGs). Eradicating the poverty in all forms from all regions by 2030 is the first SDG. The Multidimensional poverty index provides the comprehensive view of different aspects of the poverty .This can help policy makers to devise better targeted schemes and programs.

The governments across the world started partnerships projects with private sectors players to address the issue of health, education and affordable housing. The recognition of corporate social responsibility is a welcome step to fight against acute hunger and extreme poverty.

The information technology can be useful to fight against the corruption in developing nations so that the poor and needy people can take benefit of social welfare schemes. The people needs to made part of developmental process. The path of inclusive growth not only boosts the GDP but can empower the poor sections of the society.

When there is a climatic calamity or any man-made disaster it is the poor who are affected most. It takes many years to build their life again. The nations needs to map out the possible sites of any kind of disasters and should establish 24/7 alert system so that preventive steps can be taken in the advance.

To ensure food security the agriculture production needs to be increased by using latest technology and high yielding seeds. The dissemination of information about agriculture technologies should reach to farmers.

The environment assessment of big projects should be done so that damage to ecology and environment can be minimized .It should also include the compensation and rehabilitation plans of the displaced local people. The companies should take corporate social responsibly philosophy in letter and spirit. They can dedicate some portion of the profit for the betterment of the local people which can be used for improving social infrastructure like education and health.

The mass level reduction in poverty can be achieved if large people are employed in labor intensive manufacturing industries. The decentralization of industries towards rural areas can reduce the mass scale migration, slum development and burden on the already highly polluted cities.

The poor people should have access to affordable financial resources and in this direction priority sector lending and microfinance can play an important role. The financial literacy and digital penetration should be increased.

Although world has reduced extreme poverty and hunger to significant level in comparison to 19th century but still a lot needs to be done. The wise use of natural, human resources and proper execution of the programs is the way forward. It is said that sharing is the caring so we should adopt sustainable practices at individual level like we should not waste food too much, develop compassion and empathy and instead of using plastics we should use bags which are biodegradable.

bottom of page