Victories Fighting Poverty


Good News in the War on Poverty

  • Over the past 20 years, the number of the world’s chronically undernourished has been reduced by 50 percent.
  • Life expectancy in the developing world has increased by about 33 percent.
  • Smallpox has been eradicated worldwide.
  • More than 3 million lives are saved every year through USAID immunization programs.
  • During the 1990s, hunger was cut in half in China.
  • 43 of the top 50 consumer nations of American agricultural products were once U.S. foreign aid recipients.
  • Between 1990 and 1993, U.S. exports to developing and transitioning countries increased by $46 billion.
  • In the past 50 years, infant and child death rates in the developing world have been reduced by 50 percent.
  • Health conditions around the world have improved more during this time period than at any time in human history.
  • In 1992, early USAID action in Southern Africa prevented massive famine in the region, saving millions of lives.
  • Literacy rates are up 33 percent worldwide in the last 25 years. Primary school enrollment has tripled in that period.
  • USAID child survival programs have contributed greatly to a 10 percent reduction in infant mortality rates worldwide in just the past eight years.
  • In the past two decades, investments by the U.S. and other donors in better seeds and agricultural techniques have made it possible to feed an extra billion people in the world.
  • According to UNICEF’s State of the World’s Children Report, the child mortality rate in developing countries has decreased by 27% since 1995.
  • An estimated 135 million people were assisted out of extreme poverty in low-income countries between 1999 and 2004.
  • Today, more children go to school than ever in human history, and tens of millions more today than in 2000.
  • Due to a focused effort to vaccinate children in developing countries since the year 2000, measles deaths have been reduced by 74% worldwide.
  • Between 1970 and 2000 the infant mortality rate fell from 96 to 56 per 1000 births.
  • In 2008, the World Food Programme (WFP) purchased a record-breaking 552,000 metric tons of food in Southern Africa; the equivalent of providing 2.75 million hungry people with a full food basket for an entire year.
  • Botswana doubled school enrollment rates in 15 years.
  • Sri Lanka increased life expectancy by 12 years in less than a decade.
  • Despite sub-Saharan Africa being one of the most challenging places to tackle poverty, the share of people living in poverty since 1999 has fallen by nearly 5 percent across the region.
  • Since 1990, 800 million people have gained access to improved water supplies and 750 million to improved sanitation.


Now for the Good News

Poverty has fallen in all regions of the world

(The Economist) – The past four years have seen an economic crisis coincide with a food-price spike. That must surely have boosted the number of the world’s poor (especially since food inflation hits the poor hardest)—right? Wrong. New estimates of the numbers of the world’s poor by the World Bank’s Development Research Group show that for the first time ever, poverty—defined as the number and share of people living below $1.25 a day (at 2005 prices)—fell in every region of the world in 2005-08. Half the long-term decline is attributable to China, which has taken 660m people out of poverty since the early 1980s. But the main contribution to the recent turnaround is Africa. Its poverty headcount rose at every three-year interval between 1981 and 2005, the only continent where this happened. But in 2008, it fell by 12m, or five percentage points to 47%—the first time less than half of Africans have been below the poverty line. The bank also has partial estimates for 2010. These show global poverty that year was half its 1990 level, implying the long-term rate of poverty reduction—slightly over one percentage point a year—continued unabated in 2008-10, despite the dual crisis.

(Published Feb. 12 2012 in The Economist)