General Facts about Poverty and International Development
- The world economy is shaped like a pyramid, with 1 billion people living in developed countries and 5 billion in what are considered to be developing countries. Of that 5 billion, around 1 billion live in countries that are failing to develop at all, or are in decline. In these Least Developed Countries, or LDCs, the majority of people live in what is considered to be extreme poverty, on less than $1.25 a day, and many live on less than one dollar a day, or roughly 300 dollars per year. Most of these countries are in sub-Saharan Africa, with concentrations in Central and South Asia, and the Caribbean and Latin America as well.
- Each year, over 500,000 women die from treatable or preventable complications of pregnancy and childbirth. The odds that over the course of her lifetime a woman will die from these causes in sub-Saharan Africa are 1 in 16, compared with 1 in 3,800 in the developed world.
- In 2006, it was estimated that 39.5 million people were living with HIV and that 4.3 million people had been newly infected that year; the number of people dying from AIDS has increased from 2.2 million in 2001 to 2.9 million in 2006.
- In 2005, it was estimated that 15.2 million children had lost one or both parents to AIDS; of these, 80% were in sub-Saharan Africa.
- Poor sanitation and lack of safe drinking water contribute to about 88% of deaths of children under five that are due to diarrheal diseases.
- Nearly half of the world’s population now live in cities. In 2005, one out of three urban dwellers was living in slum conditions (as defined by lacking at least one of the basic conditions of decent housing: adequate sanitation, improved water supply, durable housing or adequate living space).
- The United States ranks 14 out of 21 wealthy nations of the Organization for Economic Development and Cooperation (OECD) in its promotion of economic development among poor countries as measured by the multifaceted Commitment to Development Index. When aid levels alone are considered in isolation of other types of development assistance, the US ranks first in absolute dollars of foreign aid, but 19th in aid as a percentage of Gross National Income (GNI). OECD countries currently donate an average of one-third of one percent of their incomes, roughly 1 cent for every $3 dollars, while the US contributed 0.19% of its GNI in 2007.
- Private actors are increasingly playing a larger role in the international development community. The Brookings Institution estimates that today, the private sector contribution may be as high as $37 to $44 billion, roughly equal to official aid by traditional OECD and new (developing country) bilateral donors.
- International trade policy is a significant factor in development and poverty alleviation. The World Bank estimates that as many as 32 million people could be brought out of extreme poverty and a further 64 million out of $2/day poverty by 2015 if the objectives of the current Doha Round of negotiations at the World Trade Organization are met. It has been estimated that if Africa took just 1% more in world trade, it would earn $70 billion more annually, over 3 times what it receives in aid.
- The Center for Global Development reports that in 2005, the EU 15 (OECD European members) spent $179.28 per cow domestically in subsidizing the price of European cattle, but provided only $16.11 in aid per person in the developing world. It is a well-reported statistic that European cows (including those grazing in the high-subsidy, non-EU nations of Norway and Sweden) have an average daily income of over $2.50, higher than one-third of the world’s people. The American Political Science Association’s Task Force Report on Difference, Inequality, and Developing Societies estimates that agricultural subsidies of rich countries totaled $280 billion in 2004, exceeding the GDP of all of Sub-Saharan Africa combined, and six times the foreign aid these countries provided.
- Global warming can have a significant impact on poverty. The UN has estimated that an additional 600 million would be hungry, 200 million more displaced by floods, and 400 million more exposed to diseases such as malaria and dengue fever if the world’s temperature were to rise just 2 degrees Celsius.
Millennium Development Goals
The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) are a set of eight key objectives proposed by the United Nations for addressing the plight of Least Developed Countries (LDCs) and other developing nations – the goal is to achieve the MDGS by 2015. At the halfway point of this initiative, the results are mixed and vary greatly by region.
- Worldwide, the proportion of people living in extreme poverty fell from nearly a third in 1990 to 19% in 2004. If this trend continues, the MDG target of halving those living on less than $1 a day should be met.
- Though global poverty rates fell by about 25% between 1981 and 2005, China accounts for a significant portion of this reduction; excluding China, poverty rates fell by only 10%.
- In sub-Saharan Africa, which remains the poorest region in the world, the number of people living on less than $1 a day is beginning to level off; the proportion of people living in extreme poverty fell from 46.8% in 1990 to 41.1% in 2004.
- For 2005, it is estimated that 10.1 million children died before reaching the age of five. Rates have been declining, but progress has been uneven. In most countries with a substantial reduction in under-five mortality rates, the largest changes occurred within the richest 40% of households, in urban areas, or within families in which mothers had at least some education. Where progress has been limited, AIDS is likely to be a significant factor, as is malaria and conflict.
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