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  • Writer's pictureAbdul-Qudus Oyekanmi

The 10 Poorest Countries in the World and How We Can Help Them

Updated: May 22, 2021

An impoverished residential area of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
Residential area of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (Nick Gavluk / Getty Images)

Billions of people around the world live in extreme poverty. Almost 10 percent of the world's population, that's nearly 700 million people living below the World Bank's poverty line of $1.90 a day. And roughly half the world (about 4 billion people) live on a household income of less than $2.50 a day.

The extremely poor live on the fringes with no support and watch how economic growth and prosperity circumvent them. The global economy shuns them. They live a life without enough food, access to clean water, or adequate sanitation.

Even nature attacks poor people. When nature strikes, the world's poor suffer the most. In the past 20 years, more than 1.35 million people have been killed by earthquakes, hurricanes, typhoons, tsunamis, etc. The poorest countries in the world bore the brunt of the devastation.

Here are some facts about global poverty:

> 689 million people live in extreme poverty and live on less than $ 1.90 a day.

> Children and youth make up two-thirds of the world's poor, and women make up the majority in most regions.

> Extreme poverty is concentrated in sub-Saharan Africa. About 40% of the region's population live on less than $ 1.90 a day.

> The extreme poverty rate in the Middle East and North Africa nearly doubled from 3.8% to 7.2% between 2015 and 2018, mainly due to crises in Syria and Yemen.

> Although around 10% of the world's population live in countries affected by fragility, crisis, and violence, they make up more than 40% of people living in extreme poverty. By 2030, an estimate of 67% of the world's poor will be living in fragile contexts.

> Approximately 70% of people over the age of 15 who live in extreme poverty have no schooling or only primary education.

> 1.3 billion people in 107 developing countries, which make up 22% of the world's population, live in multidimensional poverty.

> 644 million children suffer from multidimensional poverty.

These are the poorest countries in the world:

10. Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone is extremely rich in diamonds and yet poor. The cause is the brutal civil war that broke out in 1991 and lasted until 2002 due to the population's desperate social and economic conditions, especially the most recent.

The trade in illegal gemstones - or "blood diamonds" as they are often called - played a vital role in keeping the conflict going.

Simultaneously, given the industry's informal nature and the high rate of corruption at all levels, local communities have historically been excluded from any economic benefit.

9. South Sudan

Born on July 9, 2011, six years after the deal that ended the conflict with Sudan, Africa's longest civil war. However, the violence has continued to devastate this landlocked country of 11.2 million people.

Hailing from the ten southernmost territories of Sudan and home to around 60 indigenous ethnic groups, a recent conflict broke out in 2013 when President Salva Kiir accused his former deputy, rebel leader Riek Machar of a coup.

As a result, an estimated 400,000 people have been killed in clashes, and nearly 4 million have been internally displaced or have fled to neighboring countries.

8. Liberia

Africa's oldest republic has long been one of the poorest nations. While the country has enjoyed peace and stability since the end of the civil war in 2003, its governments have not adequately addressed severe systemic problems and structural challenges.

To add to the difficulties, this country of just 4.9 million people struggled to recover from the drop in commodity prices and the major Ebola epidemic in West Africa in 2014.

Even so, Liberians still hope that George Weah - once the best footballer in the world - can change something.

He was elected president in 2017 with a program that focused on job creation, economic diversification and investing in critical infrastructure projects.

His election promises were undermined by the decline in mining exports and rising inflation coupled with the Liberian dollar's devaluation.

7. Mozambique

The former Portuguese colony has abundant arable land and water and abundant energy and mineral resources.

Average GDP growth rates of 5% have often been recorded over the past ten years. Yet, it remains in the top 10 poorest countries globally, with large parts of the population still living well below the poverty line.

While a 15-year civil war ended in 1992, the difficult climatic conditions, corruption, and political instability never went away.

To make matters worse, attacks by Islamic insurgent groups in the north of the country have recently escalated since 2017. More than 1,000 people were killed, and another 200,000 displaced.

6. Malawi

Malawi, one of the smallest nations in Africa, has made strides in improving economic growth and implementing critical structural reforms in recent years.

GDP per capita, which rose from $975 in 2010 to over $1,200 last year, is projected to exceed $1,500 by 2023.

These improved prospects have been overseen by a stable and democratic government that has received significant financial support from both the IMF and the World Bank.

Even so, poverty remains widespread, and the country's economy - largely dependent on rain-fed crops - remains vulnerable to weather-related shocks. While the standard of living is mainly improving in urban areas, food insecurity in rural areas is extremely high.

5. Niger

With 80% of the inland area covered by the Sahara and a rapidly growing population primarily dependent on small-scale agriculture, Niger is threatened by desertification and climate change. Food insecurity is high, as are disease and death rates.

Recurrent clashes between the army and the jihadist group and ISIS subsidiary Boko Haram have displaced thousands of people.

One of the main drivers of the economy - the extraction of valuable natural resources like gold and uranium - also suffered from volatility and low commodity prices.

4. Eritrea

This small East African nation of only 3.5 million people is the least developed in the world. With around 65% of the population in rural areas and 80% of people who depend on subsistence agriculture for a living, Eritrea was ranked 47th among 47 nations in sub-Saharan Africa in the 2020 Index of Economic Freedom of Cultural Heritage.

In 1962, Ethiopia's annexation sparked a 30-year conflict of independence that ended in 1991 when Eritrean rebels defeated government forces.

The repressive regime of Isaias Afewerki, leader of the only political party to rule the country since it was officially founded in 1993, has created a rigidly militarized society in which defense spending consumes resources on much-needed public infrastructure.

While all land is considered state-owned and property rights are almost nonexistent, the main drivers of the economy - mining and agriculture - are very vulnerable to fluctuations in prices and climate hazards.

3. Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC)

Since its independence from Belgium in 1960, the Congo has suffered from decades of predatory dictatorship, political instability, and constant violence.

Now the country is ready to turn a page: On January 24, 2019, Félix Antoine Tshisekedi Tshilombo - the son of the legendary opposition leader Etienne Tshisekedi - was elected as the new president.

His controversial predecessor Joseph Kabila, who had ruled since succeeding his murdered father in 2001, is credited with the end of the so-called "Great African War," a conflict in which up to 6 million people were killed as a direct result of fighting or because of disease and malnutrition.

However, he did little to improve the lives of survivors of the war: over 60% of the country's 89 million people still live on less than $2 a day.

2. Central African Republic (CAR)

The Central African Republic is rich in gold, oil, uranium, diamonds but with poor people. This nation of just 4.9 million people, who have claimed the title of the world's poorest for nearly a decade, shows some signs of progress.

For the first time since independence from France in 1960, the Central African Republic democratically elected a president in 2016: former math professor and prime minister Faustin Archange Touadéra, who worked as a peacemaker to bridge the gap between the Muslim minority and the Christian majority.

While his successful election has been an essential step in national reconstruction, around 75% of the population is still below the poverty line. Large swathes of the country, still controlled by anti-government rebels and militia groups, have a long way to go.

1. Burundi

Little inland Burundi, shaped by ethnic conflicts and civil wars among the Hutu-Tutsi, has the enviable distinction of being at the top of the global poverty list.

With around 90% of the nearly 12 million citizens who rely on subsistence farming (the vast majority of whom live on $ 1.25 a day or less), food scarcity is a significant concern: food insecurity is, in fact, almost double that as the average for sub-Saharan Africa.

Also, the World Bank notes that access to water and sanitation remains very poor, with less than 5% of the population having access to electricity.

Here are ways to solve world hunger:

An African boy enjoying rain.
An African boy enjoying rain. (Riccardo Niels / Getty Images)

1. Correctly identify problems

One of the main problems associated with poverty is the inability to correctly identify contributing factors at both the micro and macro levels.

Many organizations assume that local aid alone will solve the problem, but only with the combined efforts of local, state, and national governments will poverty decrease.

2. Allocating the Right Resources at the Right Time

Preventive diseases like pneumonia kill nearly two million children each year. Without proper planning, including enough time, money, and volunteer work, global poverty will persist.

3. Creating organizations and communities for local work

Implementing policies is not the only solution to global poverty, as policies often do not directly concern those affected.

As mentioned earlier, efforts must come from both local and federal domains. While guidelines to change the legislation are being drawn up, local organizations essentially implement the changes and provide direct support to those in need.

Also, it has been found that working with the entire community rather than specific individuals is more effective.

4. Job Creation

Job creation in poverty-ridden communities enables individuals to lift themselves out of poverty. This solution to global poverty is arguably one of the most effective.

Governments can do this by rebuilding their infrastructures, developing renewable energy sources, renovating abandoned homes, and raising the minimum wage.

By increasing the minimum wage in existing jobs, companies would fight recent inflation in developed and developing countries. This change has been shown to reduce poverty in the states (in places like Seattle and Washington).

5. Provide access to health care

Unpaid medical bills are the leading cause of bankruptcies. Access to affordable health care would allow families to allocate the money they would spend on healthcare elsewhere.

6. Empowerment of women

Empowerment of women in developing countries often comes from organizations working to reduce poverty by allowing them to study, hold leadership positions, and develop socially and economically.

7. Microfinance

Microfinance improves socioeconomic status by providing access to loans and expanding educational programs for children of borrowers.

It can also improve health and well-being by providing access to clean water and better sanitation, creating new jobs, and teaching developing countries to be more sustainable.

Microfinance shows that even the smallest amount of credit can be one of the many solutions to global poverty.

8. Granting of Paid Vacation and Paid Sick Leave

Paid maternity and paternity leave allows families to save money after the birth, as the birth of a child is a significant cause of economic hardship.

When workers are on sick leave, they can adequately manage their illness without worrying about missing a salary or getting a salary for less than usual.

9. Support equal pay for men and women

Closing the pay gap between men and women would reduce 50 percent of women and their families' poverty. This would also add money to the country's gross domestic product.

Global poverty has proven to be an unruly, frustrating cycle, but eradicating it is within our means. These solutions to global poverty can and should be implemented to begin the end of poverty.

Help us fight this issue, along with all other pressing issues of our world by contributing whatever you can.

We use these funds to provide quality education, training, and awareness to youth from underserved communities to help them become better leaders of tomorrow.



Abdul-Qudus Oyekanmi is a Nigeria-based full-stack digital marketer and activist at the International Youth Organization for Peace and Sustainability.

Inputs and Edits by Aswin Raghav R.


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