What’s more extreme than extreme poverty?

No, the answer is not base jumping, it’s ultra-poverty.

In a world of growing inequality between rich and poor, the global community is prioritizing ending poverty in all its forms everywhere with the first Sustainable Development Goal (SDG 1). Over the last few decades, much of the progress toward ending extreme poverty stemmed from boosting those closest to the poverty line, primarily in India and China. Extreme poverty is defined as experienced by anyone who lives on less than $1.90 per day adjusted for purchasing power. However, the Global State of Ultra Poverty (GSUP) has recently coined the term ultra-poverty to describe an even more severe form of poverty experienced by those living far below the extreme poverty line.

“These are the individuals and families living on the margins of society, so isolated and excluded that they are left out of government assistance programs and market-based mechanisms like microfinance or microloans” – GSUP Report 2017

While this may seem like a drastic description, it applies to nearly half of the 767 million people living in extreme poverty. What’s worse is that the 14 countries making up 80% of people living in ultra-poverty, are only receiving 20% of official development assistance.

GSUP admits that without concentrated and targeted interventions, progress will flat line since most current programs continue to target those closest to the extreme poverty line.

Nevertheless, there are defined approaches the global community can take to prevent stagnation. Targeted investments and allocations from donors and philanthropists, particularly the World Bank, in the 14 countries where ultra-poverty is concentrated will yield positive results. As will incentivizing governments to target and track ultra-poor individuals. Scaling up investments in ultra-poor-specific initiatives is also key and has been initiated by organizations like BRAC through their graduation model.

What’s clear from the data is that SDG 1 will not be accomplished by 2030 or ever unless we start to target this heavily marginalized group.

Photo credit: United Nations Photo

Alyssa GovindanWhat’s more extreme than extreme poverty?