All of the world’s 10 poorest countries by GDP are in Africa. These countries generally have poor government infrastructures and corrupt officials. They are wracked with violence and disease. Climate change severely affects the rural areas. However, anti-poverty strategies have already been successful. Thanks in part to efforts by the U.N., the number of people living in extreme poverty has been cut in half over the past 27 years. Here is a list of and facts about the world’s 10 poorest countries and the efforts to reduce poverty in them:

  1. Madagascar is exposed to droughts brought on by climate change. After multiple poor harvests, roughly 450,000 people suffer severe food shortages. The country has the fourth-highest child malnutrition rate in the world. Freedom from Hunger and the World Bank Fund combat poverty in this country through micro-loans and safety net programs.
  2. Eritrea is still recovering from a revolution in which it gained independence from Ethiopia. The country is in self-imposed isolation, causing economic stagnation. A harsh military conscription keeps young men and women in military camps and out of work. Eritrea has rejected recent U.N. humanitarian aid offers.
  3. Guinea is very oil-rich, but while corrupt officials amass vast capital, the government spends an estimated 17 percent of its oil revenue on health and education. Meanwhile, infant mortality rates are high, and roughly 40 percent of young children go without education. The first democratically elected President Conde has stated that he plans to focus on fighting corruption to solve these problems.
  4. Mozambique is still dealing with the impacts of a 16-year civil war. Fifty percent of the population is below the poverty line. Poverty is highest in rural areas, where as many as 45 percent of people suffer from chronic malnutrition. Poverty reduction programs in the country have been successful by focusing on agricultural aid and educating farmers in agricultural development.
  5. Malawi was hit hard by the AIDS epidemic, which orphaned over a million children. Climate change severely hurt the nation because it relies heavily on subsistence farming. Food shortages are common, and 47 percent of children suffer from stunted growth. President Mutharika has made steps to fight agricultural insecurity by investing in agriculture and individual farmers.
  6. In Niger, corruption and political apathy allow for Boko Haram and bands of cattle rustlers to terrorize local communities that are already plagued by drought. The country has a 70 percent illiteracy rate. To address this, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and the Nigerian government have made steps to improve schools in the country.
  7. Liberia suffered heavily during the Ebola crisis. The quarantined zones designed to combat the virus hurt trade and stopped farmers from working together. During the epidemic, countless farm plots had been abandoned, leaving much of the population with food insecurity. USAID continues to work with the Liberian government to combat poverty and the impacts of the Ebola virus.
  8. In Burundi, political violence is rampant. Hundreds of people were killed during the fallout of the latest election and nearly 245,000 have fled the country. The country is at the top of the global hunger index, and violence increases malnutrition rates. The EU, Burundi’s biggest humanitarian aid donor, has cut aid, hoping it will force the government to do more to end the bloodshed.
  9. The Democratic Republic of Congo is still recovering from a civil war that revolved around natural resources. As a result, the country suffers from widespread disease and malnutrition. Poverty levels are at 64 percent. The U.N. estimated that there are 2.3 million refugees living in the country. The U.N. has recently taken steps to bring humanitarian aid to refugees and bring investors into the country.
  10. In the Central African Republic (CAR), ethnic violence is widespread, displacing millions. Because of this, the CAR has the world’s highest malnutrition rates, despite its fertile soil. According to the U.N., nearly half the population is in need of humanitarian assistance. The U.N. has asked for and recently received nearly $400 million to combat starvation and poverty.

While poverty, starvation and violence are prevalent in these countries, major improvements have been made in the world’s poorest countries. Sub-Saharan Africa has seen a 20 percent increase in primary school attendance. From 1995 to 2003, advanced medical techniques saved 7.6 million people from the AIDS virus. Child mortality has been cut roughly in half despite a boom in global population. This is all thanks to foreign aid, which has been proven effective. Nevertheless, it is clear there is a long way to go toward ending global poverty. This is why it is so important that global leaders remain strong in their fight against poverty.

Bruce Truax

Photo: Flickr

Life expectancy has risen in the past two decades by over nine years. Both wealthy and impoverished nations have managed to raise their citizens’ lifespans. In the wealthier countries, less people are dying from heart diseases by the age of 60. According to the U.N.’s World Health Organization annual statistics, six countries’ babies are healthier, with less dying before the age of 5, explained Margaret Chan, World Health Organization chief, in a statement.

The six poorest countries managed to raise life expectancy by over 10 years between 1990 and 2012. Liberia’s lifespans increased the most by 20 years (42 to 62).

The next few countries that were able to significantly raise their lifespans are Ethiopia (from 45 to 64 years), Maldives (58 to 77), Cambodia (54 to 72), East Timor (50 to 66) and Rwanda (48 to 65).

According to the WHO, a girl who was born in 2012 will most likely live to be approximately 73-years old and a boy up to 68-years old.

More people are starting to live longer because of an increase in food supplies, better nutrition, improvements in medical supplies and technology (immunizations and antibiotics), improved sanitation and hygiene and safer water supplies.

Although the life spans in Africa are the lowest, they have still made a significant increase by about 10 percent . Malaria deaths have decreased by 30 percent and HIV infections have also decreased by 74 percent.

A great contribution to the increasing lifespans is the larger income Africans are making, which has increased by 30 percent.

One of the poorest countries in the world, Mozambique, has made huge improvement due to the discoveries of coal and gas.

Today, this is proof that people are able to make a change in others’ lives — the ones who need it the most. Although the poorest countries still have the shortest lifespans, they have definitely increased. Over the next few decades, one could expect even more growth.

 —  Priscilla Rodarte

Sources: ENCA, SF Gate, Geography, The Independent

Zimbabwe National Dish
Food is deeply integrated into all cultures, and it’s often the poorest countries who take the most pride in their meals. Food brings people together, even if the distance never changes.

Democratic Republic of the Congo

Cassava, being available year round, is the staple food, though there are Arabic, French and Asian influences in Congolese cuisine. It’s common to grill or boil insects such as caterpillar, crickets and grasshoppers while bananas and local vegetables are common. A simple dish, called saka saka is made from cassava leaves cooked with palm oil and peanut sauce.


The national dish, called sadza, is based on cornmeal and generally served with a vegetable stew. Meats such as beef, springbok, kudu and goat are consumed regularly by those who can afford it, but those who cannot rely on a wide variety of fried insect for protein.

The majority of Zimbabweans are Christian, so Christmas is widely celebrated. Often an animal is roasted on a spit for hours to be shared by the entire village.


The Burundi diet is heavy in carbohydrates such as corn, millet, sorghum, cassava and sweet potatoes. Cassava is typically boiled and mashed into a porridge that’s used to school up a vegetable sauce. Beans are the most common source of protein as meat is rare, though fish is regularly eaten by those who live beside Lake Tanganyika.

Locally-brewed beers are common and accepted as part of the social interaction when families negotiate over a marriage. There are many food customs that revolve around cows, which are considered sacred. Milk cannot be heated or drunk on the same day that peas or peanuts are eaten, and when a cow dies its horns are planted beside the family’s house to bring good luck.


Typically found in Liberian meals are cassava, peppers, sweet potatoes, tomatoes, ginger, palm oil and no meal is complete without rice. Cassava is sometimes boiled and then pounded into what is called a dumboy, and sauces made from the Cassava leaf over beef or chicken are a traditional favorite.


Goats, cattle, sheep, pigs and chickens are all commonly raised and eaten while fish consumption is low, regardless of Eritrea’s proximity to the Red Sea. The base of most meals is either kitcha – a thin wheat bread – or injera – a spongy pancake made from taff. Food is typically served in a communal bowl and eaters use the kitcha or injera to pinch out some of the main course.

Since Eritrea was once an Italian colony, tourists often find spaghetti, lasagna and pizza in the country’s restaurants. Blended drinks with bananas, mango and papaya are common, and three drinks share the title of ‘national beverage’: suwa, an alcoholic drink similar to beer; meis, a fermented honey drink; and Araki, an anise-flavored liquor.

Central African Republic

Meat is scarce and expensive, so nuts and insects serve as daily protein. The base of most meals is usually millet or sorghum, and vegetables and spices such as garlic, onions, chiles, okra and peanuts are gradationally used to add flavor.

Specialties include palm butter soup, futu – pounded cassava – and foutou – pounded plantains. Palm wine and banana wine are the favorite local beverages.


As a desert country, Niger’s citizens rely on grains that can be stored for long periods of time like millet and rice. Beef and mutton often serve as the main interest in the meal, and a local favorite is dumplings made from crushed and fermented millet and cooked in milk, sugar and spices.

Those who border Lake Chad have access to fresh mish and the vegetables used in European, Asian and African dishes. The country is predominantly Islamic and so alcohol isn’t easily available. Instead, tae is the drink of choice and is available from carts beside the road.


Rural Malawian families all play a part in growing maize, the staple of their diet. Cooked maize is shaped into patties that are called nsima, and family members eat from the communal bowl while sitting in a circle on the ground. The bowl typically contains a variation of ndiwo, a sauce made with beans, meat or vegetables, and the nsima is used to scoop out a mouth-full at a time.

Those who boarder Lake Malawi eat a great deal of fish, and they dry what they don’t eat to sell to the neighbors. Chambo (the same fish used to make Western tilapia) is a popular favorite.


Those who have a history in Madagascar have left their mark on the cuisine; therefore finding dishes that belong to France, parts of Africa, the Indonesians and Arabs is common. Traditional meals are eaten on the floor and eaten with spoons from a large communal plate. Ro – rice mixed with herbs and leaves – is the base of most meals, and Ravitoto – meat and herbs – is generally its counterpart. No beverages accompany the meal, but there is a popular drink called Ranonapango which is made by burning rice.


The country’s neighbors, the Pashtuns, Tajiks and Uzbeks, heavily influence Afghanistan’s menu. India’s spices such as saffron, coriander, cardamom and black pepper are also prevalent as well as naan, an Indian flat bread that can be made in a wide variety. Rice is present in most meals, and lamb is the preferred meat.

Perhaps the most popular dish in Afghanistan is qabli pulao, a streamed rice dish topped with raisins, carrots and some kind of meat. Kababs are also a local favorite, ranging from lamb, ribs or chicken and served with a side of naan. Qorma is a dish made up of a bed of fried onions and layered with fruit, meat, spices and vegetables.

In many of the world’s poorest countries, there is only one meal a day. The women in a family traditionally will start cooking first thing in the morning, and the day’s meal is eaten in the early afternoon. Many times food is eaten with the hands out of communal bowls, making clean water a great necessity for public health and hygiene. Sharing food is a sign of respect and welcome so that guests are often fed at the cost of the family going hungry. Food is important in every nation as it binds us together at the same time that it allows us to demonstrate our heritage and creativity.

– Lydia Caswell

Sources:  MapsOfWorld, SAARC Tourism, Our AfricaThe Borgen ProjectEritreaLiberian ForumEveryCultureFoodByCountry, FoodSpring
Photo: The News Gastronomes

With the holidays quickly approaching, everyone is sharing what they are grateful for. Family, friends and jobs top the lists of many individuals. And the holiday spirit has many people anxious to give to the less fortunate. In the global arena, many developed nations possess greater resources than their less fortunate neighbors. Here’s a list of the five richest countries and their five poorest neighbors:

Richest Countries

1. Qatar

The Arab state is the largest exporter of oil and natural gas with a GDP per capita (PPP) of $105,091. It only has 2 million residents.

2. Luxembourg

Despite its small size, Luxembourg is the second richest country in the world with a GDP (PPP) of $79,593.

3. Singapore

Located in southern Asia, the country has a GDP (PPP) of $61,567 and a population of 5 million residents.

4. Norway

The country has a GDP (PPP) of $56,663, earning the majority of its wealth from petroleum, natural gas and fresh water reserves. It is also the least dense European country.

5. Brunei

The country boasts a GDP (PPP) of $55,111 with most of its revenue derived from its reserves of crude oil and natural gas.

Poorest Countries

1. Eritrea

Located near the Horn of Africa, the country has a GDP (PPP) of $792.13. It has a fast growing economy compared to its neighbors.

2. Liberia

The West African country’s instability due to past civil wars has caused the GDP (PPP) to stagnate at $716.04.

3. Burundi

Violence in the region plays a dramatic role in the country’s economy which has a GDP of $648.58. Inhabitants of the region often face corruption, poor education and AIDS.

4. Zimbabwe

Like many African countries, Zimbabwe’s economy has taken continual hits. The country currently has a GDP (PPP) of $589.46 and attracted attention in the past due to human rights issues in the past.

5. Democratic Republic of Congo

The Democratic Republic of Congo currently has the lowest GDP with $394.25 per capita. The second largest country in Africa has potential to greatly benefit from its mineral reserves and land for agriculture but its economy continues to be effected by violence in the region.

– Jasmine D. Smith

Sources: Top 10 Always, The Richest
Photo: Trulia