Special Report

25 Worst Countries to Live in the World

25. Uganda
> Population:
38.8 million
> GNI per capita: $1,613
> Life expectancy at birth: 58.5 years
> Pct. of pop. with at least some high school: 28.8%

Under Idi Amin Dada’s military dictatorship in the 1970s, Uganda’s economy deteriorated and its people suffered under the regime’s significant human rights violations. In the decade after Amin was ousted from power, Uganda’s economy improved and the standard of living increased markedly. Despite the improvements, Uganda remains relatively underdeveloped by international standards of wealth, health, and education.

Life expectancy in Uganda is just 58.5 years, almost 20 years shorter than the 79.1 year life expectancy in the United States. Not only is Uganda one of the world’s poorest countries, but also it has one of the fastest growing populations. As the younger population exceeds the older one — there are nearly as many Ugandans under age 14 as there are aged 15 to 64 years old, the second highest such ratio in the world — Uganda may find it difficult to provide for its children. Today, more than one-third of Ugandans under five years old are malnourished.

24. Haiti
> Population:
10.5 million
> GNI per capita: $1,669
> Life expectancy at birth: 62.8 years
> Pct. of pop. with at least some high school: 28.5%

Born from a history of frequent violent political turmoil, Haiti is the only country in the Latin America-Caribbean region among the least livable countries on the world. Many of the nation’s struggles are related to its poor health institutions. Partially as a consequence, life expectancy in Haiti is low. An individual born in Haiti today is expected to live an average of slightly less than 63 years. Additionally, 35% of one-year-olds are not immunized against measles, one of the higher percentages worldwide. Haiti residents are also very poor. The country’s gross national income per capita is just $1,669, making Haiti the poorest nation in the Western Hemisphere. The income that is generated in the country is also not distributed very well. Based on the Gini coefficient, Haiti ranks as the seventh worst country in the world for income inequality.

The country has recently faced developmental hurdles largely outside of its control. More than a quarter million Haitians were killed in a 2010 earthquake, which also left the country’s infrastructure in shambles. The earthquake led to a cholera epidemic which added thousands to the death toll.


23. Benin
> Population:
10.6 million
> GNI per capita: $1,767
> Life expectancy at birth: 59.6 years
> Pct. of pop. with at least some high school: 19.2%

Benin residents spend an average of 3.3 years of in school, fewer years of education than in all but a handful of other countries. Minimal education in the Sub-Saharan African nation has led to predictably poor outcomes. Slightly less than 29% of adults in Benin are literate, one of the lowest literacy rates of any country in the world. Educational attainment is not likely to improve by much in the near future as nearly 47% of primary school students end up dropping out.

As is the case in all of the least livable countries, Benin residents do not live long lives by Western standards. Life expectancy at birth in Benin is just shy of 60 years. The low life expectancy is attributable, in part, to poor access to health care. There is only about one doctor for every 20,000 residents, one of the lowest such ratios of countries reviewed. Nutrition also plays a significant role in the country’s low life expectancy. In Benin, roughly 45% of children under five are malnourished to the point that their growth is stunted.

22. Sudan
> Population:
38.8 million
> GNI per capita: $3,809
> Life expectancy at birth: 63.5 years
> Pct. of pop. with at least some high school: 15.2%

Like many of the world’s least livable nations, Sudan’s development has been marred by violent conflict and political turmoil for many years. The country still struggles with a number of problems common in African nations. Sudanese adults spend just 3.1 years in school on average. If current enrollment patterns continue, the average Sudanese child will receive 7.0 years of schooling, an improvement, but still fewer years than in any other country except for Djibouti, Eritrea, and Niger.

Out of every 1,000 Sudanese citizens, 212 women and 274 men die before reaching the age of 60. This is considerably higher than the global mortality rate of 120.2 females and 180.9 males premature deaths for every 1,000 people.

21. Djibouti
> Population:
886,313
> GNI per capita: $3,276
> Life expectancy at birth: 62.0 years
> Pct. of pop. with at least some high school: N/A

Djibouti is one of two Arab states among the least livable countries in the world. On the Red Sea, bordering Eritrea, Ethiopia, and Somalia, the country is home to a number of foreign military bases, including the only U.S. base in Africa. China will soon build its first overseas military base in the country as well. Despite what appears to be keen interest in Djibouti from foreign nations, the country’s 886,313 residents are some of the world’s poorest. Each resident earns an average annual income of $3,276, versus the U.S. GNI of $52,947.

People in Djibouti also suffer disproportionately from negative health outcomes. The death rate due to tuberculosis — a treatable and curable disease — at roughly 76 out of every 100,000 people, is higher rate than in any other country examined with the exception of Mauritania and Sierra Leone.