Asia is the largest continent in the world, covering 17,139,445 square miles with a population of 4,406,273,633 people. Despite widespread economic success, Asia remains the worst continent for global hunger and contains more than half of the world’s poorest people. Below are 13 facts about poverty in Asia that everyone should know.

  1. Urban Poor
    A reported 75 million people were living below the poverty line of $3.10 in 2017, placing them at high disaster risk. China, Indonesia and the Philippines make up most of East Asia’s urban poor.
  2. Hunger
    About 519.6 million people do not have enough food to eat in Asia, and a prominent 70 percent of the world’s malnourished children live on the eastern continent. Due to lack of proper nutrients, 100 million children in Asia are stunted, 28 percent of the total youth population.
  3. Average Income
    In 2017, Afghanistan had the lowest annual average income in the world at $1,100.
  4. Sanitation
    The second biggest cause of death among children under five years old in more than 60 percent of East Asia is diarrhoeal diseases. About two out of every five people in East Asia do not have proper sanitation facilities. Open defecation is still practiced by 130 million people throughout countries in the region.
  5. Women
    Representing two-thirds of the poor due to discrimination in education and employment, women make up a significant amount of the people in poverty in Asia.
  6. Rice
    With the decline of rice sales in some economies, such as in Cambodia, Myanmar and Lao PDR, nations will have to shift their focus of economic growth in order to continuously reduce poverty in their countries.
  7. Children
    With education unaffordable and families trapped in the vicious cycle of poverty, child labor is prominent in Asia. Children experience excessively long hours and are placed in harm’s way doing hazardous work.
  8. Natural Disaster and Climate Change
    Natural disasters such as floods, earthquakes, extreme temperatures, storms, wildfires and droughts affect agriculture in Asia. According to World Vision, Asia Pacific is the most disaster-prone region in the world.
  9. Government
    In 2015, over 60 percent of Asian Pacific countries scored below 50 on Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index. This indicates a serious corruption problem. Poverty, corruption and development are interrelated issues.
  10. Organic Farming
    Offering a means of generating more income, organic farming presents opportunity, but for those who can afford it. For small farmers, certification is costly and is not in the name or control of the farmer who is paying for the form. This diminishes potential commitment or interest in organic farming.
  11. Rural Poor
    In many regions across Asia, up to 90 percent of poor people live in rural areas. Poor rural households usually have larger families who are underemployed and are less educated. Access to credit and technology is limited.
  12. Minorities
    In Vietnam, ethnic groups make up around 12 million of the 90 million population but account for over two-fifths of the country’s poverty. These inequalities fuel poverty in Asia.
  13. Education
    Many students attending primary school in South Asia are taught on rote bases. This leads to many weakened skills such as problem solving, writing grammatically correct sentences and measuring. In 2014, studies showed that “one quarter to one third of those who graduate from primary school lack basic numeracy and literacy skills that would enable them to further their education.”

Through these important facts about poverty in Asia, it becomes clear that, within the continent of Asia, every country is experiencing its own levels of poverty. With hope, the strides achieved through economic achievement will start to create a positive impact on residents, reducing poverty in Asia until it is nonexistent.

– Tara Jackson

Photo: Flickr

Policies that support quality education and provide social protection are investments that can help stem rising income inequality in the Asia Pacific, according to Axel Van Trotsenburg, the World Bank Vice President for East Asia and the Pacific who spoke recently at a meeting of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) finance ministers in Cebu, Phillippines during a session called “Global Economic and Financial Outlook, Growing Inequality and Regional Connectivity.”

For poverty-stricken households, labor is often the sole asset they depend on. However, Van Trotsenburg said that if labor were to be made more productive through quality education and the addition of skills training, inclusive growth could begin to happen.

Van Trotsenburg suggested focusing education policies on quality teaching and better learning outcomes. The goal would be to reach youth in their primary and secondary school years.

Education initiatives alone could produce significant improvements for the livelihoods of the poor and reduce income inequality. But additional social protection measures can greatly support and enhance these efforts, significantly improving people’s lives, he said.

For example, conditional cash transfer (CCT) programs can raise school attendance, preventive health care and nutrition among the poor and vulnerable. CCT programs have been successful in places like the Philippines, Mexico, Peru and Chile.

In 2010, The Economist magazine praised CCT programs for their effectiveness. “The programs have spread because they work. They cut poverty. They improve income distribution. And they do so cheaply.”

Despite growth in middle-income East Asian households, poverty and class divide are still very present throughout the region. Van Trotsenburg describes the complexities of the situation:

“In middle-income East Asia, rapid, inclusive growth enabled hundreds of millions to lift themselves out of poverty. Yet, there are still challenges. The bottom 40 percent of the region’s population – almost 800 million people – still live on less than $3 a day in terms of purchasing power parity. These people might fall right back into poverty if the global economy takes a turn for the worse, or if they face health, food-price and other shocks.”

He urged APEC members to continue or accelerate economic reforms to sustain growth that will increase the living standard of those at the bottom of the income distribution.

In particular, he advocated for physical infrastructure investments. “In this region, 142 million households still have no access to electricity while 600 million people lack access to adequate sanitation,” he said. “It will be very important for greater investment to be accompanied by increases in efficiency of such expenditure. And this points in turn to the importance of strengthening institutions, including through public financial management reforms.”

Nikki Schaffer

Sources: World Bank, Economist
Photo: jonahkessel

MTV Exit Fights Human Trafficking - The Borgen Project
MTV, in cooperation with USAID, Australian Aid and ASEAN, has launched an awareness campaign targeted at young people called MTV Exit, which seeks to raise awareness about human trafficking, especially in the Asia Pacific region.

The program seeks to educate young people in the region and around the world about human trafficking through media campaigns such as music videos, informational videos and through other interactive tools. A significant number of these tools are also specifically targeted toward young people in the Asia-Pacific region who are disproportionately affected by human trafficking globally.

Part of the campaign includes what MTV calls an Exit Map, available on the campaign’s home page. The Exit Map is a 6-hour workshop through which anyone can educate a target group about human trafficking, the ways to prevent trafficking and methods for helping survivors.

The first part of the workshop focuses on making participants feel comfortable around each other and with the instructor so that the many difficult topics associated with human trafficking can be more easily and freely discussed. According to the workshop, it is important to make sure people feel they are in a safe environment so that misconceptions and myths about trafficking can be most easily debunked.

Another focus of the workshop is on the danger of taking risks. Trafficking takes place when traffickers take advantage of people in vulnerable situations trying to pursue their dreams. They often lure young people with promises of fantastic jobs and good wages, knowing that they are more likely to take chances in order to achieve their dreams.

The Exit Map workshop tries to educate people about how to spot traffickers. It teaches people to ask the right questions of potential employers and to use a hotline in order to identify whether an advertised job is run by a legitimate company or if it is merely a hoax used by traffickers to capture people.

MTV’s definition of human trafficking is “when someone is recruited, moved, held, or received in order to be exploited.” According to the campaign, human trafficking is a process that includes more than just exploiting the person; it involves recruiting, holding and moving the person in order to exploit them. Therefore the issue must be addressed at all levels of the process in order to most effectively combat it. Educating people about how to spot illegitimate job offers, for example, attempts to combat the recruiting phase of trafficking.

The campaign also emphasizes that traffickers can be anyone and that trafficking is a business facilitated by the demand for cheap products in other countries like the United States. As long as people keep demanding cheap products, people in other countries will continue to be trafficked into forced labor in order to make these cheap products. Therefore MTV emphasizes that consumers should be educated on where and how goods are made and whether slavery took place in any part of the supply chain, which means holding companies accountable for inspecting their supply chains and addressing slavery where it exists.

MTV also seeks to educate young people about the many different types of trafficking. When most people think of trafficking, their first thought sex trafficking, but it also includes forced labor, debt bondage, trafficking into domestic work, child adoption and trafficking of women for surrogacy, trafficking for the removal of organs and trafficking for marriage.

The last point that MTV hopes to emphasize through its Exit Map education plan is that vulnerability is not the cause of human trafficking. Circumstances such as poverty, hunger, lack of education and gender inequalities do not cause trafficking. These things make it easier for traffickers to exploit and take advantage of people, but traffickers are the cause of trafficking.

As long as there are people willing to exploit other people in vulnerable situations, trafficking will exist. Therefore, tackling the problem is two-fold. Improve people’s situations so that traffickers are no longer able to take advantage of vulnerability and educate vulnerable people about how to spot traffickers effectively cutting off trafficker’s supply of easily exploitable vulnerable human beings; this is how to combat human trafficking.

— Erin Sullivan

Sources: Mumbrella, MTV Exit 1, MTV Exit 2, MTV Exit 3, MTV Exit 4, MTV Exit 5, MTV Exit 6
Photo: Tumblr

Conservation and Development
Foreign aid and development are often focused on bringing people out of poverty and creating stable economies to keep them healthy and successful. The Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund (CEPF), however, has a different focus. CEPF defines itself as a “global leader in enabling civil society to participate in and benefit from conserving some of the world’s most critical ecosystems”. CEPF works to target biodiversity hotspots and goes directly to civil society groups to create working alliances among diverse groups.

By protecting these biologically diverse areas, CEPF is also protecting and promoting those who live in the areas, often small local farmers. Empowering these communities to protect their environments creates a sense of reinvestment in the land and helps foster cooperation across borders.

Putting emphasis on ecosystems promotes the health of those that reside nearby as well. By working to stop the threats to these hotspots, CEPF is working to create communities that thrive based on their environment. Creating and supporting societies based on conservation can help to improve agriculture and economic stability.

CEPF’s goal is not only to preserve the planet and its ecosystems but to provide people with safe and healthy environments for the future. Conservation should go hand in hand with development and foreign assistance, because the healthier the land and the people, the more stable and successful they will be.

– Sarah Rybak

Sources: Huffington Post, CEPF
Photo: CEPF