Development: Killer Facts on Global Poverty and Development

Please steal these killer facts: a crib sheet for advocacy on aid, development, inequality etc, by Duncan Green

Development Success

Income Poverty

Worldwide, the proportion of people living in extreme income poverty (< $1.25) has more than halved, falling from 47% to 22% between 1990 and 2010. (Source UN Millennium Progress Report 2013)

Between 1993 and 2008, Vietnam reduced the proportion of people living below the national poverty line from 58% to just 15%. Source ODI.

79% of the world’s $2 a day poor currently live in Middle Income Countries. Over time, the proportion in Fragile and Conflict Affected States (some of them middle income) will rise, although the extent of the shift is hotly disputed (see this blog)

Be cautious on global numbers. The May 2014 release of the World Bank’s new (2011) International Price Comparison dataset appeared to overnight reduce extreme poverty by more than half to 8.9%, according to an initial calculation by CGD. We will have to wait for this to be confirmed/replaced by the Bank.


Nepal’s maternal mortality ratio (MMR) fell by 47% between 1996 and 2006. Source ODI.

Globally, the mortality rate for children under-five deaths fell by 41 per cent—from 87 deaths per 1,000 live births in 1990. Source UN In absolute numbers, Under-five deaths have fallen from 12.6 million in 1990 to 6.6 million in 2012. Source UNICEF


In Ethiopia, approximately 3 million pupils were in primary school in 1994/95. By 2008/09, this had risen to 15.5 million – an increase of over 500%. Progress has been through government-led efforts to reduce poverty and expand the public education system equitably, backed by substantial increases in national education expenditure and aid, as well as improved planning and implementation capacity at all levels. Source ODI.


Uganda (Water and sanitation): Following reforms and sustained investment in water infrastructure, Uganda increased the proportion of people in rural areas with access to an improved water source from 39% in 1990 to 64% in 2008. Source ODI


With agricultural growth averaging more than 5% a year during the past 25 years, Ghana is one of the top 5 performers in the world. This has contributed to major reductions in poverty and malnutrition. Having raised food production per capita by more than 80% since the early 1980s, Ghana is largely self-sufficient in staples, owing in part to large increases in cassava and yam production as well as improved varieties. Source ODI

Social Protection

India has the largest rights-based employment guarantee programme in the world (NREGA), providing over 4 million households a year with 100 days work. With a strong focus on the poorest and most excluded, the programme is contributing to reduced vulnerability to seasonal and household shocks, as well as improved food security and use of basic services. Source: NREGA website

Finance for Development

From 1990-2011, total international resource flows to developing countries grew from US$425 million to US$2.1 trillion. Much of this has been driven by rapid expansion in foreign investment in developing countries, growing remittances, and increases in lending. Source Development Initiatives.

ODA remains the main international resource for countries with government spending of less than PPP$500 per person per year. Source Development Initiatives

Remittances to developing countries reached an estimated US$436 billion in 2014, over 3 times global aid flows. Source World Bank

Locally generated revenue: Government spending in developing countries is now US$5.9 trillion a year, over 40 times the volume of aid. Source Development Initiatives

Tax: Natural resources accounted for 40% of total tax revenue in Africa from 2008-2011. Source: Eurodad

While non-ODA flows account for over 90% of the total resource receipts in upper-middle income countries (UMICs), these flows account for only one third in least-developed countries (LDCs). Source OECD



According to the OECD, half the world’s poor live in conflict-affected or fragile states (Source: OECD DAC); by 2030 it may by two-thirds (Source: Brookings Institution).

In most yearsall the worst humanitarian crises are in conflicts like Syria, Pakistan, Somalia (Source: Global Humanitarian Assistance).

In 2014 the world will spend $8 billion on peacekeeping (Source: UN), compared to $1745 billion total military spending in 2012 (Source: SIPRI) (i.e. peace merits less than half of one percent of war).

Link to climate change:

  • According to research by International Alert, 46 countries with a population of 2.7 billion could face a high risk of conflict as climate change increases tensions, for example over scarce resources (Source: International Alert).
  • Syria’s conflict started in the fourth consecutive year of severe drought, after decades of falling precipitation, which had, in 2010 alone, driven 300,000 rural families from their land (Source: UN).


An estimated 258,000 people died in Somalia from famine and food insecurity between October 2010 and April 2012.

The number of weather-related disasters reported has tripled in 30 years (Source: Oxfam).

By the 2030s, large parts of Southern Africa, South and East Asia will see greater exposure to droughts, floods and other hazards; 325 million people in extreme poverty will live in the most exposed areas (Source: ODI).

In the last 20 years, the impact of disasters has been devastating: 4.4 billion people affected, 1.3 million people killed, US$2 trillion in economic losses.

As well as mega disaster, smaller, localized disasters often go unnoticed: The attrition of small-scale disasters affects the poorest families, and accounts for significant disaster impact: 54% of houses damaged, 80% of people affected, and 83% of people injured.

Low-income and lower-middle income countries have accounted for only 33% of disasters, but 81% of all deaths.

Climate is responsible for three-quarters of all disaster events; the IPCC’s Special Report on Extreme Events suggests climate change could result in “unprecedented extreme weather and climate events.”


Humanitarian action

2013 saw the smallest proportion, 62%, of needs (as set out in UN appeals) met for a decade (Source: OCHA). Emerging donors aren’t yet filling the gap (Source: Global Humanitarian Assistance).

For all the talk of building long-term resilience, the world spent $532 million to prepare for and prevent disasters in 2011 – and $19.4 billion to respond (so 40 times more spent on cure than on prevention). (Source: Oxfam)

Yet prevention is value for money: every $1 spent in disaster resilience in Kenya has saved $2.90 in reduced humanitarian spend, reduced losses and development gains. (Source: Oxfam)

 Inequality and taxation

The 85 richest individuals in the world have as much wealth as the poorest half of the global population. Source Oxfam report.

In Namibia and Bolivia, the richest ten per cent earn 100 times more than the poorest ten per cent. Source: Oxfam.

Governments around the world lose around £100bn a year in tax from rich individuals using tax havens. Source Oxfam.

In Indonesia, ending corporate tax dodging could help 3.5 million farmers provide food for their families. Source UNEP.

Inequality and Health & Education

More than 1.5 million lives are lost due to high income inequality in rich countries alone, according to a study in the British Medical Journal

In the UK, health care and education are worth as much to the poorest 20 per cent of people as their entire post-tax income. Source: Office for National Statistics.

For the poorest 20 per cent of families in Pakistan, sending all children a private low-fee school would cost approximately 127 per cent of that household’s income. Source: academic paper.

On redistribution

Brazil has achieved success comparable only to the New Deal, through a combination of social policy (Bolsa Familia, minimum wage), good economic management and job creation. Source Oxfam

If South Africa decreased income inequality by just 10 percentage points, this would lift 1.5 million people out of absolute poverty. But if inequality levels remain static, there will still be more than eight million South Africans living in poverty by 2020. Source: Oxfam report.

On work and wages

Tea pickers in Malawi are living below the extreme poverty line of $1.25 a day, even though they are earning the minimum wage. Source Oxfam.

Cocoa farmers receive as low as 3.5 per cent of the price of a chocolate bar, compared to 18% in the 1980s. Source Fairtrade Foundation.

Only 8% of global garment workers belong to a Union. Source Oxfam.

Food and Climate

Climate Change and Hunger

Climate change could increase the number of people at risk of hunger by 10–20 per cent by 2050, compared to a world with no climate change. Source: IPCC.

There could be 25 million more malnourished children under the age of 5 in 2050, compared with a world without climate change – that’s the equivalent of all the children under 5 in the US and Canada combined. Source: Oxfam, based on IFPRI, UNICEF

Food Prices

Food price spikes can be a matter of life and death to many people in developing countries, who spend as much as 75 per cent of their income on food. Source: World Bank.

In 2012, the worst US drought in 50 years reduced the maize crop by 25 per cent, contributing to global maize price rises of around 40 per cent. Source OECD

That same year was the UK’s second wettest on record, leading to the lowest wheat yields in 20 years. Source: Met Office

Climate Change and Agriculture

Kenyan-grown flowers air-freighted to the UK are six times less greenhouse gas-intensive than Netherlands-grown flowers shipped to UK. Source: IPL Poverty footprint.

Climate Change and Fossil Fuels

Some 60–80% of the fossil fuel reserves of companies listed on global stock markets is ‘unburnable’ if the world is to stay below +2°C. At the current rate of capital expenditure, the next decade will see over $6trn allocated to developing fossil fuels Source: Carbon Tracker

Fossil fuel subsidies cost over half a trillion dollars ($500 bn) globally in 2011. Egypt, Indonesia, Pakistan and Venezuela, spend at least twice as much on fossil fuel subsidies as on public health. Source: ODI.

Climate Change and Finance

At the Copenhagen summit in 2009, world leaders promised to provide $100bn per year by 2020 to help poor countries adapt to a changing climate and reduce their emissions. $100 billion is less than 5% of the wealth of the world’s top 100 billionaires. Source: Oxfam

They also committed to providing $30bn of ‘Fast Start Finance’ between 2010 and 2012, balanced between adaptation and mitigation.