Statistics on Poverty In Sub-Saharan AfricaNearly half the population in Sub-Saharan Africa lives below the international poverty line. Discussed below are five shocking statistics regarding poverty in Sub-Saharan Africa.

Leading Facts on Poverty in Sub-Saharan Africa

  1. The average life expectancy at birth for someone born in sub-Saharan Africa is 46. This sobering number is due to the prevalence of HIV/AIDS in the region. According to UNDP, “a person can hope to live on average only 46 years, or 32 years less than the average life expectancy in countries of advanced human development, with 20 years slashed off of life expectancy due to HIV/AIDS.” Thankfully, HIV death rates are decreasing across sub-Saharan Africa. In Rwanda, AIDS-related mortality rates dropped from 7% to 5% from 2011-2012. Similarly, in Uganda the life expectancy was raised by ten years between 2000 and 2013, from age 46 to age 55. Foreign aid and the distribution of HIV/AIDS medication has played a large role in this reversal.
  2. 48.5% of the population is living on less than $1.25 per day, and 69.9% on less than $2.00 per day. With a little over 910 million people living in the region, this places around 637 million Africans below the poverty line. The good news is that poverty rates are steadily declining in almost all of the countries in the region. In 2011, the head of the Africa World Economic Forum Katherine Tweedie stated that “10 fastest-growing economies will come from sub-Saharan Africa in the next five years.” In 1981, the poor in this region accounted for 50% of the world’s poor population. Today, they account for one third of the world’s poor population. Although one third is still a significant number, it is considerably less daunting than the numbers from a few decades ago.
  3. HIV/AIDS is the #1 killer in sub-Saharan Africa. UNAIDS estimates that 2 million Africans perish each year from the disease. 70% of these African HIV/AIDS deaths were in sub-Saharan Africa. The region also lays claim to 90% of new HIV infections in children. In Namibia alone, 15,000 people die every year from the disease.
  4. The Democratic Republic of the Congo is the poorest country in Africa and the second poorest country in the world, with almost 88% of the population living on less than $1.25 a day. With a population of 65.7 million people, 88% is an unnerving statistic. Children are severely malnourished (rates have reached 30% in certain areas) and many die due to these adverse conditions. In fact, children account for almost 50% of deaths in the country. If any country in Africa deserves aid from the United States, it is the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
  5. The majority of poor people in the region live in rural areas. Due to a decline in agricultural assistance, the rural sectors of sub-Saharan African nations are hotbeds of extreme poverty. Much of the land is very dry, making it difficult for farmers to grow food for sustenance. Luckily, efforts are being made by the UNDP to foster the development of sustainable agriculture in these areas. In Lesotho, reform actually came from the government when King Letsie III introduced sustainable farming to his people.

– Josh Forgét

Sources: The World Bank, The New Times, Farmers Weekly, The National, Rural Poverty Portal, World Concern
Photo: City Data


The UK campaign, Enough Food for Everyone If, knows how to use statistics in a way that emphasizes their message.

The statistic they are currently using is that hunger kills every 10 seconds. This is derived from the fact that three million children died from hunger in 2011. Those three million deaths spread evenly across the year equals ten seconds a death.

Some assert that this statistic is a manipulation of the data, as the real issues surrounding those three million deaths are slightly complicated. It is not as simple as people simply starving to death.

A large portion of the deaths involved in the three million per year statistic are caused by infectious diseases or other things that poor nutrition can be related to. When children aren’t given the proper nutrition in the earliest parts of their lives, their bodies are much more susceptible to infectious diseases that a normal healthy child would simply be able to fight off.

The problem isn’t only involving malnutrition in children, but also malnutrition in mothers. In many societies, women aren’t given the best food in the household, therefore they can end up being malnourished during pregnancy and breast feeding, leading to malnutrition in their children.

Malnutrition is especially prevalent in communities that rely heavily on cereals and starches for their diets. These areas tend to neglect the importance of fruits and vegetables in their diets, and sometimes it is the case that milk or meats are avoided in these areas for cultural reasons.

Despite the complexities revolving around the statistic perpetuated by the IF campaign, the campaigners rely on the ‘hunger kills every 10 seconds’ statistic to give people a concrete way to think about the magnitude of global hunger. When people hear that three million died of hunger in 2011 they tend to block it out, as it is hard to conceptualize such a large number. The Enough Food for Everyone If campaign puts this statistic in an easy to understand way that makes people identify with individuals in poverty.

Enough Food for Everyone If uses its resources to raise awareness about world hunger in order to impact governmental decisions in favor of providing more aid to developing countries. The campaign also has put out helpful ways that people can contribute to ending hunger through their consumer choices, such as buying local, in season vegetables. The campaign is exemplifying how putting data in a certain manner and context can make all the difference in the impact is has.

Martin Drake

Source: BBC News, Enough Food for Everyone If
Photo: BBC News Images