There are 767 million people worldwide in extreme poverty, defined as a household living on less than $1.90 per day per person.
Of these, 385 million are children and youth ages 17 or younger – 122 million (ages 0-4); 118 (ages 5-9); 99 million (ages 10-14); and 46 million (ages 15-17).
By comparison, 337 million ages 18-59 and 44 million ages 60 and older live in extreme poverty, according to a joint report released this month by the World Bank and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF).
“The findings are stark: Children are most affected by extreme poverty – and by a huge margin,” the report stated. “Children are disproportionately affected, as they make up around a third of the sample population, but half of the extreme poor.”
The regions with the highest percentage of children living in extreme poverty are Sub-Saharan Africa (51.7 percent) and South Asia (35.7).
A clear divide exists between rural and urban areas with 81.4 percent of global children living in extreme poverty being in rural area.
Even using a higher poverty threshold of $3.10 per person per day, children younger than 17 were more significantly impacted than adults. “Across all possible poverty lines, children are the worst affected,” the report explained.
Ending extreme poverty by 2030 is one of the sustainable development goals adopted in September 2015.
The report said governments must invest in healthcare, education, sanitation, nutrition, clean water and “child sensitive social protection systems” (such as cash transfers) to meet this goal.
“Children growing up in extreme poverty require special attention,” the report emphasized. “The consequences of inadequate nutrition, a lack of early stimulation and learning, and exposure to stress last a lifetime. They lead to stunted development, low levels of skills needed for life and work, limited future productivity as adults, and transmission of poverty down the generations.”
In remarks for World Food Day (Oct. 16), U.N. secretary-general Ban Ki-Moon highlighted the negative impacts of climate change on agriculture and food security.
“The most vulnerable people [to climate change impacts] are [the] world’s poorest, 70 percent of whom depend on subsistence farming, fishing or pastoralism for income and food,” he said. “Without concerted action [to adapt food production to the changing environment], millions more people could fall into poverty and hunger, threatening to reverse hard-won gains and placing in jeopardy our ability to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.”
Pope Francis also focused on the connection between climate change and hunger / poverty in his 2016 World Food Day message.
“Those who are engaged in work in the fields, in farming, in small-scale fishing, or in the forests, or those who live in rural areas in direct contact with the effects of climate change, are aware that if the climate changes, their life changes too,” he stated.
Francis added, “It is not enough to be upset or moved by those who, at every latitude, ask for their daily bread. Decisions and action are needed.”
The full World Bank-UNICEF report is available here.