1. Congo DRC
Although half the country’s people live below the poverty line, the poorest people are in rural areas where they earn a livelihood as are small-scale farmers and fishers. There are also poor people living in peri-urban areas who have no access to land. Because of the low population density in rural areas, access to land is not a major problem for most rural people. But in peri-urban areas, where small plots can be profitable, land has become a scarce resource, and people without access to land or off-farm employment are the poorest of the poor. The most vulnerable of all poor people are young people and women, who are the primary agricultural producers and processors.
Malawi is one of the world’s poorest countries, ranking 160th out of 182 countries on the Human Development Index. Progress towards reaching the Millennium Development Goal of eradicating extreme poverty has been limited. According to the United Nations Development Programme’s Human Development Report for 2009, about 74 per cent of the population still lives below the income poverty line of US$1.25 a day and 90 per cent below the US$2 a day threshold. The proportion of poor and ultra-poor is highest in rural areas of the southern and northern parts of the country.
3. Central African Republic
The poverty rate in the Central African Republic (62 percent) was one of the highest in the world. Social indicators place CAR among the least developed countries in the world. Thus, the “2013 Human Development Report” of the United Nations Development Program (UNDP)—which classifies countries based on their human development index (HDI)—ranks CAR 180th out of 187 countries. In 2007, the country prepared a Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper (PRSP-1). Yet, life expectancy (48 years) remains among the lowest in the world, and infant and maternal mortality rates have deteriorated over time.
Liberia is still recovering from the effects of a 14-year civil war that ended in 2003, leaving it a fragile state. In 2010, GDP per capita was US$400, and more than 80 per cent of Liberians were surviving on less than US$1.25 per day. Three quarters of the poor live in rural areas. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations classifies Liberia as a low-income, food-deficit country, reporting that about half of the population is food-insecure or highly vulnerable to food insecurity. Although agriculture is the largest employer in the country, accounting for 70 percent of the workforce and more than 60 percent of GDP, small-scale farmers are among the poorest people in Liberia.
Madagascar, an island country in the Indian Ocean off the coast of East Africa, has seen its inhabitants’ standard of living decline dramatically over the past 25 years. Between 1970 and 1995, per capita income fell by 40 per cent, while the population doubled, reaching more than 18 million. Despite the marked economic recovery that followed the opening up of the regime in 1991 and then the boost provided by the new regime after 2002, the Malagasy population is still extremely poor: according to the most recent data, published in 2005 by the National Institute of Statistics, 68.7 per cent of the island’s inhabitants live below the poverty threshold, with the overwhelming majority of these living in rural areas, while per capita GNP was a bare US$266 in 2004.
Since it won independence from Ethiopia in 1993 after a 30-year war of liberation, Eritrea has had to cope with the socio-economic problems of a small, desperately poor country. Its economy, like that of many African nations, is largely based on subsistence agriculture, and 60 per cent of the population relies for food and income on agricultural activities such as crop and livestock production or fishing. Located in the Horn of Africa, on the Red Sea, the African continent’s youngest independent country is also one of the poorest in the world, with an annual per capita income of US$150 in 2003 and a Human Development Index ranking of 155 out of 175 countries. Poverty and food insecurity are widespread and are on the increase. Even in years with adequate rainfall, about half of the food that the country requires has to be imported.
Zimbabwe’s statistical indicators for health and education were once among the best in Africa. But the political and economic crisis has brought rising poverty and social decline in its wake. The 2003 Poverty Assessment Study Survey II showed a substantial increase in poverty; between 1990 and 2003 the poverty rate rose from 25 percent to 63 percent. There are significant differences in poverty rates among the provinces. Matabeleland North has the highest poverty rate in the country, with 70 percent of its inhabitants classified as poor or extremely poor. Poverty is also concentrated in the south-eastern provinces of Manicaland and Masvingo, which are among the driest and least productive areas in the country.
Burundi has weathered more than a decade of violence and troubles. Conflict has contributed to widespread poverty. Burundi ranks in 167th place among 177 countries on the 2007 UN Human Development Index, and seven out of ten Burundians live below the poverty line. Per capita gross national income (GNI) in 2007 was US$100, less than half of pre-war levels. Between 1993 and 2000, an estimated 300,000 civilians were killed and 1.2 million people fled from their homes to live in refugee camps or in exile. During that period life expectancy declined from 51 to 44 years, the poverty rate doubled from 33 to 67 per cent and economic recession pushed GDP per capita down from US$142 to US$103.
Niger is one of the world’s least developed nations. Its population of more than 16 million is growing at an annual rate of 3.3 percent. Some 52 per cent of Nigeriens are under 15 years of age and 84 per cent live in rural areas. Less than a third of adults are literate. Niger ranked 186th and last in the 2013 Human Development Index of the United Nations Development Programme, with 76 percent of its people living on less than US$2 a day. Although the country has made gains in per capita GDP, infant mortality and education in recent years, poverty and social inequality have not decreased significantly. Poverty is deepest in rural areas, especially in the regions of Maradi, Dosso and Tillabéry. Rural women and girls are among those worst affected by limited access to basic social services, credit and employment
Afghanistan is one of the poorest countries in the world. Since the Soviet invasion in 1979, it has been the scene of a series of conflicts that have continued for three decades. Poverty in Afghanistan is widespread throughout rural and urban areas. The government estimates that 42 per cent of the country’s total population lives below the national poverty line. Another 20 per cent of the people live just above that line and are highly vulnerable to the risk of falling into poverty. Afghan households tend to be large. They include numerous children and several generations that share the same dwelling. Agriculture is traditionally the major activity for a large portion of the population, but the sector has suffered from nearly 30 years of conflict, low investments and natural disasters. The average size of landholdings is small, and as a result agriculture is rarely the main source of food or income. About two thirds of rural households own some livestock, and farmers also sell their labour.