The 20 Nations With the Most Children Living in Extreme Poverty

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Extreme poverty remains a worldwide social and economic scourge. According to a report from the World Bank and UNICEF, 767 million people around the world live on less than $1.90 per day — a grossly inadequate sum of money to meet basic survival needs in most countries. Approximately half of the world’s extremely poor are children, and almost all of them live in just 20 countries.

24/7 Wall St. reviewed “Ending Extreme Poverty: a Focus on Children,” a briefing note published in October 2016 from the World Bank in partnership with UNICEF.  Data was used from 89 countries representing approximately 84% of the developing world’s population. If countries without data could be included, the estimated share of children around the world living in extreme poverty might have been far higher. Further, in many countries, $1.90 or even $5.00 per day is still too low for most households to meet basic needs. If each country’s poverty line were used to determine how many people live in poverty, the number would be much higher than the World Bank’s estimate.  

The report points to two major determinants of extreme poverty: where a child lives within a country, and the political stability of the nation. Of children in extremely poor households, about 80% live in rural areas while less than 10% live in urban areas. Nearly 60% of children in war-torn or otherwise fragile countries live in extremely poor households.

Largely because multiple children may live in a single poor household, children are considerably more likely to live in poverty than adults. Nearly 20% of children in developing countries live on less than $1.90 a day versus less than 10% of adults.

The youngest children are even more disproportionately afflicted by extreme poverty. More than 20% of children under five years old in developing nations live in extremely poor households versus roughly 15% of 15 to 17 year olds.

Nearly half of children in Sub-Saharan Africa live in extreme poverty, the highest share of any region. These children make up over half of all children living in extremely poor households worldwide. Nearly 36% of the world’s extremely poor children live in South Asia, which includes India — the next highest share.

The effects of extreme poverty on children include inadequate nutrition, a lack of early stimulation and learning, and exposure to stress. As a consequence, children can suffer from physical and psychological developmental issues, the lack of skills needed for life and work, limited productivity as adults, and the perpetuation of poverty to future generations.

Beyond these impacts, the researchers noted, “neglecting children fails to build the human capital needed for sustained economic prosperity in today’s world.”

To identify the 20 nations with the most children living in extreme poverty, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed “Ending Extreme Poverty: a Focus on Children,” a briefing note published in October 2016 from the World Bank in partnership with UNICEF. Data was collected from 89 countries around the world, using a World Bank Group repository of nationally-representative surveys called the Global Micro Database. In line with the World Bank Group benchmark, extreme poverty is defined by whether a child lives in a household living on $1.90 a day or less per person. A child is defined as anyone under the age of 18 years. Populations figures were also obtained from the World Bank. The percentage of each country’s population 14 years old and younger came from the CIA Fact book and are estimates for 2016. 

Here are the 20 nations with the highest number of children living in extreme poverty.

1. India
Children in extreme poverty: 99,660,000
> Total population: 1.311 billion
> Pct. 14 years and younger: 27.71%

2. Nigeria
> Children in extreme poverty: 47,640,000
> Total population: 182.20 million
> Pct. 14 years and younger: 42.79%

3. Democratic Republic of the Congo
> Children in extreme poverty: 30,790,000
> Total population: 77.27 million
> Pct. 14 years and younger: 42.2%

4. Tanzania
> Children in extreme poverty: 12,840,000
> Total population: 53.47 million
> Pct. 14 years and younger: 44.06%

5. Ethiopia
> Children in extreme poverty: 10,940,000
> Total population: 99.39 million
> Pct. 14 years and younger: 43.71%

6. Indonesia
> Children in extreme poverty: 10,130,000
> Total population: 257.56 million
> Pct. 14 years and younger: 25.42%

7. Madagascar
> Children in extreme poverty: 9,560,000
> Total population: 24.24 million
> Pct. 14 years and younger: 40.17%

8. Bangladesh
> Children in extreme poverty: 8,620,000
> Total population: 161.00 million
> Pct. 14 years and younger: 28.27%

9. Uganda
> Children in extreme poverty: 8,120,000
> Total population: 39.03 million
> Pct. 14 years and younger: 48.26%

10. Pakistan
> Children in extreme poverty: 7,520,000
> Total population: 188.92 million
> Pct. 14 years and younger: 31.99%

11. Philippines
> Children in extreme poverty: 6,550,000
> Total population: 100.70 million
> Pct. 14 years and younger: 33.71%

12. Malawi
> Children in extreme poverty: 6,450,000
> Total population: 17.22 million
> Pct. 14 years and younger: 46.53%

13. China
> Children in extreme poverty: 5,750,000
> Total population: 1.371 billion
> Pct. 14 years and younger: 17.1%

14. Niger
> Children in extreme poverty: 5,420,000
> Total population: 19.90 million
> Pct. 14 years and younger: 49.31%

15. Zambia
> Children in extreme poverty: 5,120,000
> Total population: 16.21 million
> Pct. 14 years and younger: 46.08%

16. Mali
> Children in extreme poverty: 4,990,000
> Total population: 17.60 million
> Pct. 14 years and younger: 47.27%

17. Brazil
> Children in extreme poverty: 4,760,000
> Total population: 207.85 million
> Pct. 14 years and younger: 22.79%

18. Burkina Faso
> Children in extreme poverty: 4,610,000
> Total population: 18.12 million
> Pct. 14 years and younger: 45.04%

19. South Africa
> Children in extreme poverty: 4,080,000
> Total population: 54.96 million
> Pct. 14 years and younger: 28.34%

20. Rwanda
> Children in extreme poverty: 3,550,000
> Total population: 11.61 million
> Pct. 14 years and younger: 41.53%