LONDON (AlertNet) – Countries climbing up the wealth ladder have failed to pull large numbers of people out of dire poverty, according to a major survey published on Wednesday.
Nearly 1.19 billion – 72 percent – of poor people live in middle-income countries as compared with 459 million living in low-income countries. And some 586 million people in middle-income countries live in "severe poverty", compared with 285 million in low-income countries.
Researchers said they are shocked by both the proportion of poor people and the intensity of poverty in middle-income countries.
“These findings are startling. We knew from income data that poverty in middle income countries was high,” Sabina Alkire, director of Oxford University’s Oxford Poverty and Human Development Initiative (OPHI) said in a statement on Wednesday.
“ …but now we also see … there are many severely poor people among them too, people who have simply been bypassed as their nation’s comparative wealth increased.”
OPHI researchers looked at deprivation not just in income, but also health, education and living standards. They analysed household surveys in 109 countries using a recently-developed measure of poverty which assesses people’s access to food, clean water, fuel and school, and looks at child mortality rates and family assets.
The Multidimensional Poverty Index (MPI) is the first international measure to look at the intensity of poverty – the number of deprivations that each person faces at the same time – the researchers said.
Levels of poverty can vary dramatically within countries. In Kenya’s regions, the percentage of poor people ranges from 4 to 86 percent, in Timor-Leste, between 29 and 86 percent.
Nigeria, a middle-income country, is Africa’s largest oil producer but its northeast region has more than five times the number of poor people than the whole of Liberia, a low-income country still recovering from prolonged civil war.
“The MPI reveals some dramatic disparities in the rates and intensity of poverty within countries, usually hidden by national averages. Hopefully, these findings will help policymakers to focus on delivering some benefits of growth to the poorest.” Jose Manuel Roche, research officer at OPHI, said
Sub-Saharan Africa has the highest percentage of people living in severe poverty. But within South Asia there are 26 regions which, added together, notch up similar rates and numbers of poor people as in all 38 African countries combined.
“By this analysis, we find that there is a ‘second sub-Saharan Africa’ located within South Asia, because these 26 sub-national regions and 38 countries have comparable and tragic rates of multidimensional poverty,” the OPHI report, Multidimensional Poverty Index 2011, said.
Middle-income countries have an average annual wage of between $1,006 and $12,275, while low-income countries have a wage of $1,005 or less.
(Editing by Rebekah Curtis)