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Quarter of world population 'either near or living in poverty' – UN

Published time: July 24, 2014 11:29
Edited time: July 24, 2014 12:34
A girl gathers rice spilled from a humanitarian food convoy that arrived from the Malian capital Bamako in the northeastern city of Gao (Reuters / Adama Diarra)

A girl gathers rice spilled from a humanitarian food convoy that arrived from the Malian capital Bamako in the northeastern city of Gao (Reuters / Adama Diarra)

More than 2.2 billion people worldwide are “either near or living in poverty,” says a recent UN report. The gap between the poor and rich is wide: the 85 richest people in the world have the same wealth as the 3.5 billion poorest.

“Almost 1.5 billion people are multi-dimensionally poor, with overlapping deprivations in health, education and living standards. And close to 800 million people are vulnerable to falling back into poverty when setbacks occur,” says the 2014 Human DevelopmentReport dubbed “Sustaining Human Progress: Reducing Vulnerabilities and Building Resilience.”

The report also shows that between 1990 and 2010 income inequality in developing countries jumped 11 percent. Now the world’s 85 billionaires have the same wealth as the 3.5 billion poorest people. The main concentration of poverty is in South Asia.

“South Asia has … more than 800 million poor and over 270 million near-poor – that is, more than 71 percent of its population.”

According to the report, high inequality between groups is not only unjust but can also affect well-being and threaten political stability.

"When specific groups are discriminated against, resources and power are not distributed based on merit, and talented people are held back.”

screenshot from http://hdr.undp.org/sites/default/files/hdr14-summary-en.pdf

The study also found that about 1.2 billion people survive on the equivalent of $1.25 or less a day, while 12 percent of the world’s population (842 million) suffer from chronic hunger.

"The poor, women, minorities (ethnic, linguistic, religious, migrant, or sexual), indigenous peoples, people in rural or remote areas or living with disabilities, and countries landlocked, or with limited natural resources tend to face higher barriers.”

The UN data highlights that one in five children in developing countries lives in absolute poverty.

“In developing countries 7 in 100 will not survive beyond 5, 50 will not have their birth registered, 68 will not receive early childhood education, 17 will never enroll in primary school, 30 will be stunted and 25 will live in poverty.”

The rise of poverty worldwide may stem from various factors. A natural disaster, economic slump, corruption and unresponsive state institutions “can leave those in need of assistance without recourse,” says the document.

screenshot from http://hdr.undp.org/sites/default/files/hdr14-summary-en.pdf

Conflicts and unstable situations in the countries also have “adverse impacts” on human development.

“More than 1.5 billion people live in countries affected by conflict—about a fifth of the world’s population,” says the report. “…about 45 million people were forcibly displaced due to conflict or persecution by the end of 2012—the highest in 18 years—more than 15 million of them refugees.”

According to the study, homicide and a rising number of violent crimes prevent progress in some Caribbean countries and Latin America. The lack of laws in West and Central Africa also threaten human development.

Yet the report shows that the overall global trend is positive and human development levels continue to rise, but at a slower pace than before. It gives an example: in 2013 HDI value at the global level was 0.702, while the 2012 HDI was only 0.700.

“The steepest declines in HDI values this year occurred in the Central African Republic, Libya and Syria, where ongoing conflict contributed to a drop in incomes,” says the study.

The report highlights the need for promoting people’s choices and protecting developments in human achievements.

“Vulnerability has multiple causes and consequences. Reducing vulnerability is a key ingredient in any agenda for improving human development. But if we are to succeed in reducing vulnerability, we need to approach it from a broad systemic perspective,” says Nobel Laureate Joseph Stiglitz in the report.

screenshot from http://hdr.undp.org/sites/default/files/hdr14-summary-en.pdf

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