Extreme Poverty: A Global Emergency

More than one billion people--one-sixth of the world's population--live in extreme poverty on less than $1 a day. At the Earth Institute,  researchers take a “human needs" approach to developing solutions to address extreme poverty.  Earth Institute researchers, scientists and development practitioners help fight global poverty by addressing its  root causes: hunger and malnutrition, access to health care, water, sanitation, energy, trade barriers, gender equality, access to education and so forth.

The human needs approach follows the framework laid out by the Millennium Project, a United Nations initiative to recommend action plans for cutting global poverty in half by 2015.

This framework has led to history's most comprehensive development project -- The Millennium Villages -- which are currently proving that by fighting poverty at the village level through community-led development, rural Africa can achieve the Millennium Development Goals by 2015 and escape from the poverty trap. By applying this scalable model to give them a hand up, not a hand out, people of this generation can get on the ladder of development and start climbing on their own.

The Millennium Villages, as with all of the Earth Institute’s anti-poverty work, are organized around achieving outcomes, explains John McArthur, who is associate director at the Earth Institute’s Center for Globalization and Economic Development.

“What we need to do,” McArthur says, “rather than looking at existing resources and asking what incremental improvements can be made, is to figure out what is needed to fix the problems, then organize efforts and dollars around those solutions.” Harnessing science to fight global poverty lies at the core of many Earth Institute activities.

Did You Know?

  • About one billion people, one-sixth of the world's population, live on less than $1 per day.
  • The U.S. currently spends $450 billion on its military, but only about $16 billion in official development assistance.
  • In Sub-Saharan Africa, more than 15 of every 100 children die before the age of five. In western Kenya, fertilizer costs more than twice what it costs in France or the U.S. Ethiopia is so deforested that rural households cannot use manure as fertilizer because they need it as cooking fuel.
  • The rich countries have repeatedly promised to give $210 billion (0.7% of their incomes) in official development assistance, but only give $69 billion.
  • Because of HIV/AIDS, life expectancy in crisis countries like Botswana has dropped to below 40 years.
  • Millions of people, mostly children, die from malaria every year. For about $3 billion from the rich world, 2 million malaria deaths could be averted.
  • $25 billion a year would be enough to deliver life-saving health services to the low-income countries. The U.S. has recently given $200 billion per year in tax cuts.
  • Preliminary estimates show that the Millennium Development Goals can be met if foreign aid were increased by $75 billion per year, well within the promise of 0.7%.