AFRICANGLOBE – More of the world’s poor live in eight Indian states than in the 26 poorest African countries, according to a new UN-backed measure of poverty.
The Multidimensional Poverty Index looks beyond income at a wider range of household-level deprivation factors, including services, which could then be used to help target development resources. Its findings throw up stark statistics compared with regular poverty measures.
The study found that half of the world’s MPI poor people live in South Asia, and just over a quarter in Africa.
There are 421 million MPI-poor people in eight Indian states alone – Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Orissa, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal – while there are 410 million in the 26 poorest African countries combined.
Madhya Pradesh state, with a population of 70 million, had almost identical poverty levels as the Democratic Republic of Congo, which is home to 62 million people.
The researchers said the extent of poverty in India had often been overlooked by figures comparing percentages of poor people in countries as a whole rather than sheer numbers.
According to the index, 64.5 per cent of people in Africa are MPI-poor. In South Asia, 55 per cent of people are MPI-poor. Both figures are higher than those considered extreme income-poor – living on less than $US1.25 per day.
The new index was created by the Oxford Poverty and Human Development Initiative at Oxford University, and the Human Development Report Office of the UN Development Program.
“Our measure identifies the most vulnerable households and groups and enables us to understand exactly which deprivations afflict their lives,” said OPHI director Sabina Alkire. “The new measure can help governments and development agencies wishing to target aid more effectively to those specific communities.”
The MPI will be used in the forthcoming 20th anniversary edition of the UNDP Human Development Report. It supplants the Human Poverty Index, which has been used since 1997.
The index uses 10 major variables, including access to good cooking fuel, schooling, electricity, nutrition and sanitation.
It takes into account that people living in MPI poverty may not necessarily be income poor: only two-thirds of Niger’s people are income poor, whereas 93 per cent are poor by the MPI, it found.
It showed that “multi-dimensional poverty” varies a lot within countries. In Delhi, 15 per cent are MPI-poor, compared with 81 per cent in Bihar.