Global poverty is not just about numbers. Statistics in income, wealth distribution, disease, and education never tell the whole story of individual lives in harsh conditions. Poverty affects health, life expectancy, maternal mortality, educational opportunity, environmental risk, and many other factors that contribute to individual and collective well-being. Nevertheless, numbers show a lot about the challenges of global poverty, and better data can inform better solutions to the problem of global poverty.
Reports on global poverty commonly use GDP to determine the relative wealth of countries. Such numbers allow researchers, governments, and relief organizations to determine areas of the world where poverty is most severe. Using 2012 figures from the IMF World Economic Outlook Database, the magazine Global Finance states that Sub-Saharan Africa is home to many of the poorest countries in the world. Indeed, according to those estimates, 19 of the 20 poorest countries in the world can be found in that region. Measured by per capita GDP, the five poorest countries in the world are:
- Eritrea: $776.98
- Burundi: $639.51
- Zimbabwe: $516:47
- Liberia: $490.41
- Democratic Republic of Congo: $364.48
Life expectancy at birth in the poorest countries in the world is 2/3 that of some of the world’s wealthiest nations:
- Eritrea: 61 years
- Burundi: 54 years
- Zimbabwe: 54 years
- Liberia: 59 years
- Democratic Republic of Congo: 49 years
Child mortality rates in these countries where poverty is the worst are also expectedly high. The probability of infant death per 1,000 births is as follows:
In comparison, the average life expectancy in the U.S. and the U.K. is 79 and 80 respectively. The infant mortality rate is 5 per 1,000 in U.K. and 8 per 1,000 in the US. Using the GDP metric, the U.S. ranks 7th on the list of wealthiest nations, with an estimated GDP of over $49,000; and the U.K. ranks 23rd, with an estimated GDP of almost $37,000. The richest nation in the world is the oil-rich micro state of Qatar, with a per capita GDP of over 100,000 dollars. Life expectancy in that country is 82 years. Probability of infant death is also 8 per 1,000 live births.
– Délice Williams