Poverty Facts and Stats

  1. Almost half the world — over three billion people — live on less than $2.50 a day.

    At least 80% of humanity lives on less than $10 a day.Source 1

  2. More than 80 percent of the world’s population lives in countries where income differentials are widening.Source 2

  3. The poorest 40 percent of the world’s population accounts for 5 percent of global income. The richest 20 percent accounts for three-quarters of world income.Source 3

  4. According to UNICEF, 22,000 children die each day due to poverty. And they “die quietly in some of the poorest villages on earth, far removed from the scrutiny and the conscience of the world. Being meek and weak in life makes these dying multitudes even more invisible in death.”Source 4

  5. Around 27-28 percent of all children in developing countries are estimated to be underweight or stunted. The two regions that account for the bulk of the deficit are South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa.

    If current trends continue, the Millennium Development Goals target of halving the proportion of underweight children will be missed by 30 million children, largely because of slow progress in Southern Asia and sub-Saharan Africa.Source 5

  6. Based on enrollment data, about 72 million children of primary school age in the developing world were not in school in 2005; 57 per cent of them were girls. And these are regarded as optimistic numbers.Source 6

  7. Nearly a billion people entered the 21st century unable to read a book or sign their names.Source 7
  8. Less than one per cent of what the world spent every year on weapons was needed to put every child into school by the year 2000 and yet it didn’t happen.Source 8
  9. Infectious diseases continue to blight the lives of the poor across the world. An estimated 40 million people are living with HIV/AIDS, with 3 million deaths in 2004. Every year there are 350–500 million cases of malaria, with 1 million fatalities: Africa accounts for 90 percent of malarial deaths and African children account for over 80 percent of malaria victims worldwide.Source 9

  10. Water problems affect half of humanity:
    • Some 1.1 billion people in developing countries have inadequate access to water, and 2.6 billion lack basic sanitation.
    • Almost two in three people lacking access to clean water survive on less than $2 a day, with one in three living on less than $1 a day.
    • More than 660 million people without sanitation live on less than $2 a day, and more than 385 million on less than $1 a day.
    • Access to piped water into the household averages about 85% for the wealthiest 20% of the population, compared with 25% for the poorest 20%.
    • 1.8 billion people who have access to a water source within 1 kilometre, but not in their house or yard, consume around 20 litres per day. In the United Kingdom the average person uses more than 50 litres of water a day flushing toilets (where average daily water usage is about 150 liters a day. The highest average water use in the world is in the US, at 600 liters day.)
    • Some 1.8 million child deaths each year as a result of diarrhoea
    • The loss of 443 million school days each year from water-related illness.
    • Close to half of all people in developing countries suffering at any given time from a health problem caused by water and sanitation deficits.
    • Millions of women spending several hours a day collecting water.
    • To these human costs can be added the massive economic waste associated with the water and sanitation deficit.… The costs associated with health spending, productivity losses and labour diversions … are greatest in some of the poorest countries. Sub-Saharan Africa loses about 5% of GDP, or some $28.4 billion annually, a figure that exceeds total aid flows and debt relief to the region in 2003.Source 10

  11. Number of children in the world
    2.2 billion
    Number in poverty
    1 billion (every second child)
    Shelter, safe water and health
    For the 1.9 billion children from the developing world, there are:

    • 640 million without adequate shelter (1 in 3)
    • 400 million with no access to safe water (1 in 5)
    • 270 million with no access to health services (1 in 7)
    Children out of education worldwide
    121 million
    Survival for children

    • 10.6 million died in 2003 before they reached the age of 5 (same as children population in France, Germany, Greece and Italy)
    • 1.4 million die each year from lack of access to safe drinking water and adequate sanitation
    Health of children

    • 2.2 million children die each year because they are not immunized
    • 15 million children orphaned due to HIV/AIDS (similar to the total children population in Germany or United Kingdom)

    Source 11

  12. Rural areas account for three in every four people living on less than US$1 a day and a similar share of the world population suffering from malnutrition. However, urbanization is not synonymous with human progress. Urban slum growth is outpacing urban growth by a wide margin.Source 12

  13. Approximately half the world’s population now live in cities and towns. In 2005, one out of three urban dwellers (approximately 1 billion people) was living in slum conditions.Source 13

  14. In developing countries some 2.5 billion people are forced to rely on biomass—fuelwood, charcoal and animal dung—to meet their energy needs for cooking. In sub-Saharan Africa, over 80 percent of the population depends on traditional biomass for cooking, as do over half of the populations of India and China.Source 14

  15. Indoor air pollution resulting from the use of solid fuels [by poorer segments of society] is a major killer. It claims the lives of 1.5 million people each year, more than half of them below the age of five: that is 4000 deaths a day. To put this number in context, it exceeds total deaths from malaria and rivals the number of deaths from tuberculosis.Source 15

  16. In 2005, the wealthiest 20% of the world accounted for 76.6% of total private consumption. The poorest fifth just 1.5%:

    The poorest 10% accounted for just 0.5% and the wealthiest 10% accounted for 59% of all the consumption:

    Source 16

  17. 1.6 billion people — a quarter of humanity — live without electricity:

    Breaking that down further:

    Number of people living without electricity
    Region Millions without electricity
    South Asia 706
    Sub-Saharan Africa 547
    East Asia 224
    Other 101

  18. The GDP (Gross Domestic Product) of the 41 Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (567 million people) is less than the wealth of the world’s 7 richest people combined.Source 18

  19. World gross domestic product (world population approximately 6.5 billion) in 2006 was $48.2 trillion in 2006.
    • The world’s wealthiest countries (approximately 1 billion people) accounted for $36.6 trillion dollars (76%).
    • The world’s billionaires — just 497 people (approximately 0.000008% of the world’s population) — were worth $3.5 trillion (over 7% of world GDP).
    • Low income countries (2.4 billion people) accounted for just $1.6 trillion of GDP (3.3%)
    • Middle income countries (3 billion people) made up the rest of GDP at just over $10 trillion (20.7%).Source 19

  20. The world’s low income countries (2.4 billion people) account for just 2.4% of world exportsSource 20

  21. The total wealth of the top 8.3 million people around the world “rose 8.2 percent to $30.8 trillion in 2004, giving them control of nearly a quarter of the world’s financial assets.”

    In other words, about 0.13% of the world’s population controlled 25% of the world’s financial assets in 2004.

    A conservative estimate for 2010 finds that at least a third of all private financial wealth, and nearly half of all offshore wealth, is now owned by world’s richest 91,000 people – just 0.001% of the world’s population.

    The next 51 percent of all wealth is owned by the next 8.4 million — just 0.14% of the world’s population. Almost all of it has managed to avoid all income and estate taxes, either by the countries where it has been invested and or where it comes fromSource 21

  22. For every $1 in aid a developing country receives, over $25 is spent on debt repayment.Source 22

  23. 51 percent of the world’s 100 hundred wealthiest bodies are corporations.Source 23
  24. The wealthiest nation on Earth has the widest gap between rich and poor of any industrialized nation.Source 24
  25. The poorer the country, the more likely it is that debt repayments are being extracted directly from people who neither contracted the loans nor received any of the money.Source 25
  26. In 1960, the 20% of the world’s people in the richest countries had 30 times the income of the poorest 20% — in 1997, 74 times as much.Source 26
  27. An analysis of long-term trends shows the distance between the richest and poorest countries was about:
    • 3 to 1 in 1820
    • 11 to 1 in 1913
    • 35 to 1 in 1950
    • 44 to 1 in 1973
    • 72 to 1 in 1992Source 27
  28. “Approximately 790 million people in the developing world are still chronically undernourished, almost two-thirds of whom reside in Asia and the Pacific.”Source 28
  29. For economic growth and almost all of the other indicators, the last 20 years [of the current form of globalization, from 1980 – 2000] have shown a very clear decline in progress as compared with the previous two decades [1960 – 1980]. For each indicator, countries were divided into five roughly equal groups, according to what level the countries had achieved by the start of the period (1960 or 1980). Among the findings:
    • Growth: The fall in economic growth rates was most pronounced and across the board for all groups or countries.
    • Life Expectancy: Progress in life expectancy was also reduced for 4 out of the 5 groups of countries, with the exception of the highest group (life expectancy 69-76 years).
    • Infant and Child Mortality: Progress in reducing infant mortality was also considerably slower during the period of globalization (1980-1998) than over the previous two decades.
    • Education and literacy: Progress in education also slowed during the period of globalization.Source 29
  30. A mere 12 percent of the world’s population uses 85 percent of its water, and these 12 percent do not live in the Third World.Source 30
  31. Consider the global priorities in spending in 1998
    Global Priority $U.S. Billions
    Cosmetics in the United States 8
    Ice cream in Europe 11
    Perfumes in Europe and the United States 12
    Pet foods in Europe and the United States 17
    Business entertainment in Japan 35
    Cigarettes in Europe 50
    Alcoholic drinks in Europe 105
    Narcotics drugs in the world 400
    Military spending in the world 780

    And compare that to what was estimated as additional costs to achieve universal access to basic social services in all developing countries:

    Global Priority $U.S. Billions
    Basic education for all 6
    Water and sanitation for all 9
    Reproductive health for all women 12
    Basic health and nutrition 13
    [Global issues]