News / Africa

Poverty Called Multidimensional

Oxford University says being poor can have many dimensions - income, education, health and shelter are some of them. Credit: Oxford U.
Oxford University says being poor can have many dimensions - income, education, health and shelter are some of them. Credit: Oxford U.


  • Listen to De Capua report on multidimensional poverty

Joe DeCapua
Poverty is not just about a lack of money. Oxford University says it’s also about not having enough food, education, healthcare and shelter.  And some poor are much worse off than others.
Oxford has released its latest Multidimensional Poverty Index, or MPI. This year it covered 108 countries where 78-percent of the world’s population lives. Of those people, about one-point-six-billion are listed as multidimensionally poor. And most of them are in rural areas.
Dr. Sabina Alkire -- director of the Oxford Poverty and Human Development Initiative -- explained multidimensional poverty.
“I mean a person who has different things going wrong at the same time. They might not have many assets and they might have malnutrition. And they might not have more than five years of schooling. So, several things are going wrong in their life at the same time. That’s what it means to be multidimensionally poor. It’s not just one,” she said.
The MPI found that in nearly 50 developing countries “half of the poor are so deprived” they should actually be classified as “destitute.” The index measured overlapping deprivations, with destitute meaning an extreme lack of basic living standards.
Most of those considered destitute – some 420-million – are found in countries in South Asia. And of those, India is home to 343-million of them. The MPI says there are 200-million destitute people in 24 sub-Saharan African countries. Niger has the highest percentage of its population listed as destitute with nearly 69-percent.
Income is the most common measure of poverty, but Alkire said more information is needed to tell the whole story.
“It needs a measure that looks at the other aspects of people’s lives -- like bad health, bad education, no water and sanitation or poor housing – and sees how they’re doing in those. Because it’s actually not the same people who are poor in both. And so both measures together give a more balanced picture of how people are living.”
She said it’s surprising, but in some places many people who are malnourished may not be considered income poor.
“For example, in Bhutan, according to their national poverty measure, 12-percent of people are income poor and 12.7 are multidimensionally poor, but only a quarter of those – three-point-two-percent – are poor in both.”
She said despite the findings of the Index, “policies aimed at reducing poverty are working.”
“We studied changes over time for 34-countries this year, housing two-point-five-billion people. And 30 of those countries had significant reductions of poverty. And the really good news we find is that it’s low income countries and least developed countries that actually reduced poverty the fastest,” she said.
The Oxford University study reported that the largest reduction in destitution occurred in Ethiopia, down “30-percentage points between 2000 and 2011.” Large reductions were also seen in Niger, Ghana, Bolivia, Rwanda, Tanzania, Nepal, Haiti, Bangladesh and Zambia.
The U.N. Millennium Development Goals – which set targets regarding poverty, hunger, malnutrition, health and other issues – expire at the end of next year. Alkire said the MPI could help in the creation of a replacement for the MDGs that gives a complete picture of poverty.
“We need a replacement that keeps our eyes really focused on human poverty and the pain and suffering that it entails, but also brings in the environment. And our suggestion is really simple. That along side the $1.25 a day measure – or some extreme income poverty measure – that we bring into view these people who are multidimensionally poor. And that we can do so with a measure of destitution and a measure of multidimensional poverty and maybe even a measure of vulnerability that would be more appropriate for middle and high income countries,” she said.
She said with more poverty data available, different government agencies could better coordinate their efforts.

You May Like

800-Pound Man Determined to Slim Down

Man says he was kicked out of hospital for ordering pizza; wants to be an actor More

Australia Prepares to Resettle 12,000 Syrian Refugees

Preference will be given to refugees from persecuted minorities, and the first group is expected to arrive before late December More

S. African Miners Seek Class Action Suit Against Gold Mines

The estimated 100,000 say say they contracted the lung diseases silicosis and tuberculosis in the mines More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Amnesty Accuses Saudi Coalition of ‘War Crimes’ in Yemeni
Henry Ridgwell
October 12, 2015 4:03 PM
The human rights group Amnesty International has accused the Saudi-led coalition of war crimes in airstrikes against Houthi rebels in Yemen. Henry Ridgwell reports the group says hundreds of civilians have been killed in strikes on residential areas.

Video Amnesty Accuses Saudi Coalition of ‘War Crimes’ in Yemen

The human rights group Amnesty International has accused the Saudi-led coalition of war crimes in airstrikes against Houthi rebels in Yemen. Henry Ridgwell reports the group says hundreds of civilians have been killed in strikes on residential areas.

Video No Resolution in Sight to US House Speaker Drama

Uncertainty grips the U.S. Congress, where no consensus replacement has emerged to succeed Republican House Speaker John Boehner after his surprise resignation announcement. Half of Congress is effectively leaderless weeks before America risks defaulting on its national debt and enduring another partial government shutdown.

Video New Art Exhibit Focuses on Hope

Out of struggle and despair often comes hope. That idea is behind a new art exhibit at the American Visionary Art Museum in Baltimore, Maryland. "The Big Hope Show" features 25 artists, some of whom overcame trauma and loss. VOA’s Deborah Block reports.

Video Columbus Day Still Generates Controversy as US Holiday

The second Monday of October is Columbus Day in the United States, honoring explorer Christopher Columbus and his discovery of the Americas. The achievement is a source of pride for many, but for some the holiday is marked by controversy. Adrianna Zhang has more.

Video Anger Simmers as Turks Begin to Bury Blast Victims

The Turkish army carried out new air strikes on Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) targets on Sunday, a day after the banned group announced a unilateral cease fire. The air raids apparently are in retaliation for the Saturday bombing in Turkey's capital Ankara that killed at least 95 people and wounded more than 200 others. But as Zlatica Hoke reports, there are suspicions that Islamic State is involved.

Video Bombings a Sign of Turkey’s Deep Troubles

Turkey has begun a three-day period of mourning following Saturday’s bomb attacks in the capital, Ankara, that killed nearly 100 people. With contentious parliamentary elections three weeks away, the attacks highlight the challenges Turkey is facing as it struggles with ethnic friction, an ongoing migrant crisis, and growing tensions with Russia. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.

Video Afghanistan’s Progress Aided by US Academic Center

Recent combat in Afghanistan has shifted world attention back to the central Asian nation’s continuing civil war and economic challenges. But, while there are many vexing problems facing Afghanistan’s government and people, a group of academics in Omaha, Nebraska has kept a strong faith in the nation’s future through programs to improve education. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from Omaha, Nebraska.

Video House Republicans in Chaos as Speaker Favorite Withdraws

The Republican widely expected to become the next speaker of the House of Representatives shocked his colleagues Thursday by announcing he was withdrawing his candidacy. The decision by Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy means the race to succeed retiring Speaker John Boehner is now wide open. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone reports.

Video German, US Officials Investigate Volkswagen

German officials have taken steps to restore some of the reputation their car industry has lost after a recent Volkswagen diesel emissions scandal. Authorities have searched Volkswagen headquarters and other locations in an effort to identify the culprits in the creation of software that helps cheat on emission tests. Meanwhile, a group of lawmakers in Washington held a hearing to get to the bottom of the cheating strategy that was first discovered in the United States. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Why Are Gun Laws So Hard for Congress to Tackle?

Since taking office, President Barack Obama has spoken out or issued statements about 15 mass shootings. The most recent shooting, in which 10 people were killed at a community college, sparked outrage over the nation's gun laws. But changing those laws isn't as easy as many think. VOA's Carolyn Presutti reports.

Video In 'He Named Me Malala,' Guggenheim Finds Normal in Extraordinary

Davis Guggenheim’s documentary "He Named Me Malala" offers a probing look into the life of 18-year-old Malala Yousafsai, the Pakistani teenager who, in 2012, was shot in the head by the Taliban for standing up for her right to education in her hometown in Pakistan's Swat Valley. Guggenheim shows how, since then, Malala has become a symbol not as a victim of brutal violence, but as an advocate for girls’ education throughout the world. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.

Video Paintable Solar Cells May Someday Replace Silicon-Based Panels

Solar panels today are still factory-manufactured, with the use of some highly toxic substances such as cadmium chloride. But a researcher at St. Mary’s College, Maryland, says we are close to being able to create solar panels by painting them on a suitable surface, using nontoxic solutions. VOA’s George Putic reports.

VOA Blogs