A new report released by the Oxford Poverty and Human Development Initiative (OPHI) claims that according to the Global Multidimensional Poverty Index, 1.6 billion people are living in multidimensional poverty — which is 400 million more people than had been formerly reported.

The World Bank has recently changed its method of measuring the extent to which people are impacted by poverty by shifting to a more comprehensive method that includes various categories beyond strictly listing whether income is less than $1.25 a day.

The index operates by assessing over 100 countries and weighs the extent to which individuals are deprived of basic necessities in three major categories: education, health and living standards, depicted in this chart. These categories are then divided further: health into nutrition and child mortality; education into years of schooling and school attendance; and living standards into sanitation, water, electricity, floor, cooking fuel and assets. If an individual is deprived of a third or more of these basic necessities, they are considered to be “MPI poor.”

As noted by the index, Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia are the most impoverished regions on the globe, and are respectively comprised of 29 percent and 52 percent of the overall 1.6 billion people in poverty.

In India, while 28.5 percent of the population is classified as “destitute,” from 1999 to 2006 the MPI for the country as a whole dropped by 1.2 percentage points. Moreover, in Nepal, with an improvement in both nutrition and child mortality rates, the percentage of residents in poverty dropped from 65 percent to 44 percent in a five-year time span.

With this relatively new way to measure poverty, although the statistics are alarming, the specificity of the method allows organizations to better target and combat the various components that contribute to an impoverished existence. Measuring aspects of livelihood besides income creates a more complete picture of what needs to be done to improve overall quality of life for individuals around the world.

— Jordyn Horowitz

Sources: Huffington Post, OPHI, World Bank 1, World Bank 2
Photo: Kamla Jetly Trust

diabetes in India
In today’s world where diets are high in refined sugars and lifestyles are low in exercise, more and more individuals than ever are being diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. This problem is especially bad in people of South Asian origin who are six times more likely to contract diabetes than Caucasians.

Type 2 diabetes differs from type 1 in that type 1 sets in at a very young age and is considered to be caused mostly by genetics whereas type 2 diabetes is viewed as a “lifestyle disease,” although genetic disposition may play a role. High amounts of sugar consumption combined with a lack of exercise can result in damaging the pancreas’ ability to produce and regulate insulin.

While diabetes is generally considered to be a manageable illness in countries like the United States, it is a different story for those diagnosed with diabetes in India and other, poorer countries. A higher number of Indians have diabetes than residents of the U.S. do, and many of them must endure without treatment. Indian hospitals are host to many patients suffering from diabetes’ worst consequences, including blindness, kidney failure, coma and death.

India is a developing nation, meaning it is in a transitional economic phase, like Britain was during the Industrial Revolution. This means more and more people are working sedentary jobs and eating out more often. Working a nine-to-five office job leaves little time for exercise, and restaurant food is generally considered to be worse than food prepared at home due to the large portion sizes and high amounts of calories and saturated fats. This changing lifestyle combined with Indians’ predisposition to diabetes is resulting in a skyrocketing number of cases, with an estimated 65 million people in India currently living with diabetes. This number is expected to increase to 109 million over the next 20 years.

While it is unclear why South Asians have this genetic predisposition to diabetes, there are many theories to attempt to explain it. One such theory is a study from Glasgow University that claims South Asians’ muscles do not burn fat as efficiently as European’s muscles do. The study found that the genes responsible for fat metabolism were significantly lower in South Asians, and this may be the reason why people of South Asian descent more easily gain weight and develop diabetes. Additionally, because diabetes is genetic, there is concern that the number of people developing type 2 diabetes now will lead to a higher number of babies born with diabetes in the future.

Diabetes is a condition that stays with people all their lives. There is no cure or easy solution. Treatment is costly, and for Indians living on less than $2 a day, their income is not enough to afford the everyday management that the condition requires. Even many people who have bypassed the poverty line do not have the means to treat their illness. In fact, many people do not even know they have diabetes until symptoms become severe. In a country like India where only 10 percent of the population has health insurance, the best course of action is to educate people on diabetes prevention.

Diabetes can be avoided by eating healthy foods like fruit and vegetables, and exercising regularly. However, even in countries like the U.S. where people know how they should be living, people find it difficult to change their lifestyle. People of South Asian descent will have to work even harder than other races to prevent diabetes due to their genetics, and whether or not they will is worrisome. An aggressive anti-diabetes campaign, better nutrition for children and an improved health care system will all be needed to combat the diabetes epidemic in India. Other countries that are struggling with this disease include China, Indonesia and Pakistan.

— Taylor Lovett 

Sources:, BBC, New York Times
Photo: Health Me Up

South Asia has experienced about six percent economic growth per year over the past 20 years. The proportion of poor people in the region is lower now than any time since 1981. The region is making strides in poverty reduction with improvements in health, food security and education.

Health Care

In Afghanistan, child mortality dropped from 257 to 97 per 1,000 live births between 2002-2012. Maternal health and contraceptive use have also increased, with a 20% usage rate in 2011, up from five percent in 2003. The Afghanistan Reconstruction Trust Fund was established in 2002 to provide assistance to the Government of Afghanistan for national investment projects. The Fund supports health projects in Afghanistan, increasing the number of health facilities more than fourfold, from 496 in 2004 to 2,047 in 2012.

Food Security

In Nepal, one million people received support through the Food Crisis Response Program, which is funded by the International Development Association (IDA). The landlocked country is one of the most malnourished in South Asia. The program supported a partnership between the Government of Nepal and the World Food Programme to provide food and cash in areas facing immediate risks. Benefits of the program include restored short-term food security, increased local employment opportunities and higher income, rural road construction and rehabilitation of community assets.


In Bangladesh, secondary school graduation rate increased from 30% to 39% from 2008-2011. The Higher Education Quality Enhancement Project and the Secondary Education Quality and Access Enhancement Project support the government of Bangladesh in their effort to improve education in the country. Primary education is free for all children in Bangladesh with attendance between the ages of six and ten mandated by law. As one of the world’s most densely populated countries, it is one of the world’s greatest human resources for the future. An education for children in Bangladesh means employment opportunities and eventually, self-sufficiency for the country and its people.

Haley Sklut

Sources: World Bank, Afghanistan Reconstruction Trust Fund, UNICEF

tooth brushing
UNICEF signs Tendulkar as Goodwill Ambassador: “Thanks for allowing me to start this wonderful second innings of my life. I’m looking forward to being an ambassador for UNICEF and serve to the best of my ability. This is an innings that is really important to me, so I will try my best,” – Tendulkar.

Recently, the well-known Cricket star Sachin Tendulkar (AKA Master Blaster) and UNICEF joined forces. Tendulkar is now the UNICEF Ambassador for South Asia and will focus primarily on hygiene and sanitation needs.

“I humbly accept the responsibility for being Ambassador for UNICEF in South Asia. I look forward to working with children and communities in the region, urging them to use toilets and wash their hands. Following simple practices can contribute to a hygienic lifestyle which is important for the good health of children and women across the world,” stated Tendulkar during a signing ceremony in November.

UNICEF hopes that Tendulkar will be able to raise an incredible amount of awareness for these issues through his successful career as a Cricket star. Tendulkar is newly retired from India’s team but not before he was able to become the first cricket player to ever bat a double hundred in a one a day international.

With his far reaching reputation as being the greatest cricketer pushing South Asians toward better sanitation practices should have a large impact. South Asia is number two when it comes to the highest number of underage five deaths. It is also an area where the largest amounts of people do not have access to toilets.

There is definitely a connection between these issues and child mortality rates.  Besides Tendulkar’s newest partnership with UNICEF, in past years he has made many contributions to the well-being of others. Tendulkar has definitely offered his share of good deeds throughout his career, although the deeds have been kept mostly out of the public eye until now. Starting next year Tendulkar will begin his journey with UNICEF by visiting several countries to spread the word about Sanitation.

Amy Robinson

Sources: UNICEF

On October 1, the European Union (EU) passed a resolution ending caste-based discrimination. Calling for action at multiple levels, the resolution demanded that the governments of the affected countries work to end discrimination towards people in lower castes, as well as limit the dangerous workloads often given to lower-caste employees.

Castes differentiate members of the population into different social groups, so that those in lower castes are often looked upon as “unclean,” and forced to work in unpleasant and dangerous conditions that activists say resemble slavery.

The EU’s statement helps to define caste systems as an issue that affects not only South Asian countries, but the international community as well.  The initiative has the European community, as well as South Asian human rights activists, hoping that talks on the issue of caste will proceed between the EU and caste-based nations such as Nepal, India and Sri Lanka.

According to the International Labor Organization, most of the people put under situations of forced labor in South Asia belong to lower castes. This kind of treacherous work occurs in many different sectors including agriculture, mining and retail production. The companies who subject their employees to this kind of work often supply products to multinational corporations, making caste discrimination an international problem.

Some South Asian nations have taken steps to solve the human rights issues inherent in current caste systems. For example, India has affirmative action initiatives to support Dalits, Indian citizens who belong to the lowest castes and who are subject to bonded labor.

Unfortunately, caste systems are still prevalent throughout Asia. Experts estimate that about 260 million people are affected worldwide.

Despite the EU’s recent attempt to tackle the issue, many government officials do not think the organization is doing enough, citing the high numbers of people still affected by caste discrimination as an indication of the EU’s failure. These officials stress the importance of specifically briefing the European Parliament on caste-based discrimination, so that the EU can take appropriate steps. Such measures would also aid the effectiveness of parliament members visiting South Asian countries on business, economic and development trips.

– Elisha-Kim Desmangles
Feature Writer

Sources: The New York Times, The Guardian
Photo: Live Science

World Bank Seeks to Halve Global Poverty by 2020
On Wednesday, October 9, World Bank President Jim Yong Kim said that the organization must seek to halve extreme poverty within the next seven years.

Although progress has been made in the past 20 years, further progress could be more difficult to accomplish. Most of the success in the reduction of poverty has been focused specifically in China, where regions such as South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa remain struggling. The World Bank has provided research showing that if developing countries exhibit historical growth rates for the next 20 years, global poverty would only fall to 8 percent by 2030.

In April, Kim set a goal to lessen the number of people in the world living on $1.25 a day from 18 percent to 3 percent by 2030. However, in an interview with CNN, he said that this figure would have to shrink to 9 percent by 2020 in order for the World Bank to stay on track. He takes full responsibility for setting this target.

To accomplish these ambitious goals, Kim claims that the bank is shaking up its procedures. He claimed that the bank would make $400 million in cuts to its administrative budget as it aims to be both more effective and dexterous. It plans to bring its disparate branches together in development projects that can have the greatest impact while also remaining valuable to middle-income countries. Kim said the reorganization should be finished by the bank’s next fiscal year, which starts in July 2014.

– Sonia Aviv

Sources: GMA NewsReutersHuffington Post
Photo: NY Times

The South Asian Paradox
South Asia is experiencing what one World Bank economic advisor is calling the South Asian Development Paradox. Ejaz Ghani notes that despite experiencing rapid economic growth, the region still houses the largest concentration of people living in poverty in the world. Ghani writes on his observations and makes recommendations on how to remedy this South Asian Paradox.

India makes up nearly 80 percent of South Asia’s GDP and is recognized as an emerging economic powerhouse. This progress is being experienced as well by other South Asian countries transitioning from low-income to middle-income status. Regardless, what is being seen right now is a shift in the “geography of poverty.” More than 70 percent of the world’s poor are now concentrated not in low-income countries but in these middle-income countries with more poor people in South Asia than there are in Sub-Saharan Africa. Ghani predicts that this is a pattern that is likely to continue over the next decade.

In South Asia, the number of poor has increased from 549 million in 1981 to 595 million in 2005. In India, where three-quarters of these poor reside, the numbers rose from 420 million to 455 million. Oddly enough, the poverty rate for India fell from 60 percent to 40 percent in this same time frame. Conventional wisdom has associated decreasing poverty rates to growth. Poverty rates are indeed going down but not at fast enough rates to reduce the number of poor people. This lag in poverty reduction is not due in part to underperformance as India, China, Sri Lanka, and Bangladesh are in line with the global trend and what economic growth would predict it to be. Unfortunately, South Asian countries have not fared as well as China and Thailand. Merely being on par with the global trend is not enough for South Asia, which has the largest concentration of the poor.

Ghani posits two big questions for South Asia:

• Has the pace of poverty reduction kept up with the pace of income growth?
• Has the pace of human development and gender parties kept up with the pace of income growth?

With what is being seen happening in South Asia, the alternative view that growth by itself without improving social indicators such as education, health, and women’s participation in economic activities may not be enough, seems to ring true. He compares India to China, which has roughly the same population. Both have witnessed an increase in inequality of distribution of wealth across people, with inequality in China increasing more rapidly. Despite this, China has seen much faster poverty reduction while India has experienced much slower economic growth.

Ghani notes that South Asia lags behind in education, health and gender inequality. In India, the growth enrollment ratio in secondary school, the ratio of the number of students attending university to the number of students attending school, is 40 percent, much lower than East Asia’s which is at 70 percent. Also, the region is plagued with the highest rates of malnutrition and the largest number of undernourished children in the world. In terms of gender inequality, women’s labor-force participation rate in South Asia is the lowest in the world.

To address this South Asian Paradox, Ghani prescribes direct policy interventions to accelerate social progress. In particular, he stresses the importance of improving gender inclusiveness. By reducing gender inequality in the workforce and education, South Asia can hope to see a revolutionary transformation in society.

– Rafael Panlilio

Source: World Bank