World poverty

Poverty affects people around the world. Entire nations are rarely poor but people within nations are. A rich country such as the UK has many poor people and a country we tend to think of as ‘poor’ such as Tanzania will have many rich people.

Builders on wooden scaffolding against a brick structure
Workmen building a new school in an African village

The United Nations Organisation (UNO) is trying to tackle poverty and has set up Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) to measure how successful it has been. Tackling poverty is the number one goal - the aim is to halve, between 1990 and the end of 2015, the proportion of people whose income is less than $1 a day.

Great progress is being made thanks to the work done by the agencies of the UNO, aid by individual countries, debt relief by the major powers and economic growth in Africa. Many fewer people are poor today compared to a decade ago and the UNO is on target to meet the MDGs. However, many millions of people continue to live in poverty and die early as a result.

Causes of poverty

Armed conflict, bad Governance and poor infrastructure cause povertyUNHCR, 2011

The number of people living as refugees from war or persecution exceeded 50 million in 2013, for the first time since World War Two, according to the UN. The overall figure of 51.2 million in 2013 is six million higher than the year before. Conflicts in Syria, central Africa and South Sudan fuelled the sharp increase.

Bad governance

Somalia is only now experiencing normal government since the country collapsed into civil war in 1991. It is one of the poorest places in the world. The rebel group Al-Shabaab controls the south of the country. Food agencies have been unable to work there since early 2010 and the UN has been prevented from reaching the very hungry, especially children. This has contributed to the current crisis.

Kenya is perceived to be one of the most corrupt countries in the world, ranking 154th out of 178 in Transparency International’s 2010 Corruption Perception Index. For example, companies shifting perishable goods risk losing the lot if they refuse to pay bribes. The Kenyan government has said it could be losing nearly one-third of the national budget to corruption.

Poor infrastructure

Poor infrastructure makes everything in many African countries slower, less reliable and more expensive than it needs to be. Ethiopia does not just need better rural roads, it needs entire new logistics networks linking airports, railways and warehouses, as well as new electricity grids to power them. Its cities also lack proper water supplies and sanitation.

Both the developed and developing countries have to be better at managing large capital aid projects. There has been too much corruption and favouritism in awarding contracts and a lack of infrastructure maintenance has been created.