Mapping the essentials for a dignified life

Looking at poverty from every angle

Ending poverty is the bedrock of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). There is no way we can achieve a just and equitable future without meeting this crucial goal.

Enormous strides have been made in reducing poverty in recent years, but the decline is slowing down.

Hundreds of millions still live on less than US$1.90 a day. And the world is not on track to meet the target of less than three percent of people living in extreme poverty by 2030.

Our understanding of poverty has grown. We now know that is not just about being able to feed your family or pay the bills on time—it extends its reach to every aspect of a person’s life, blighting her education, health, as well as her future along with that of her children’s.

“To fight poverty, one needs to know where poor people live. They are not evenly spread across a country, not even within a household,” says Achim Steiner, UNDP Administrator. “The 2019 global Multidimensional Poverty Index provides the detailed information policy makers need to more effectively target their policies.”

We know that poverty is multidimensional, so we have changed the way we understand and measure it.

Are children in school? Do families have healthcare? Do households have safe water, sanitation, and electricity?

These are some of the factors that can illustrate multidimensional poverty, which looks at the different deprivations people face when they lack the essentials for a dignified and decent life.

Around 1.3 billion people live in multidimensional poverty. Half of them are younger than 18 years, and a third are under 10, according to the 2019 Multidimensional Poverty Index [MPI] published by the UNDP and the Oxford Poverty and Human Development Initiative.

Poverty dimensions

Red cross




Yellow heart

Standard of living

Examining 101 countries and covering 76 percent of the world’s population, the 2019 MPI looks beyond income to understand how people experience poverty in various, simultaneous ways. It identifies how people are being left behind in health, education and standard of living, comprising 10 indicators such as lack of safe water, adequate nutrition or primary education. People who are deprived in at least a third of these weighted indicators are classified as multidimensionally poor.

Red cross Health indicators


As of 2017 821 million people were undernourished.

Kelly, Peru

At 4.30am I get to school to prepare the meals … at 7.20 we start serving breakfast to the kids.

Child mortality

Helena, Guinea Bissau

We went to the health centre where after being tested and found to be malaria positive, she was provided with free malaria treatment. Since receiving treatment and a mosquito net, she has never contracted malaria again.

Pencil Education indicators

Years of schooling

Zahra, Libya

Everything has changed for good.

School attendance

Ahmed, Libya

When I returned to school, I was overwhelmed with joy.

Heart Standard of living indicators

Cooking fuel

Jasminka, Republic of North Macedonia

You can smell and taste the pollution the moment you walk out the door. Even on a clear day there’s this poisonous tang in the air. You know it’s damaging your health and your children’s health, but you feel helpless to do anything about it.


Sita, Nepal

It’s so much easier for us to wash clothes. We even have water to flush our toilets.

Drinking water

Inusah, Ghana

Our community dam is our only source of water. But these days, it dries up [to] three times in the year and the water becomes muddy, but because we have no choice, we have to use it.


James, South Sudan

This has given us a great boost. It has given us energy, power, and electricity. We have light, and we serve the whole community with water. We keep informed with radio and television — we are now part of the global village.


Nguyen, Viet Nam

We used to dream of a safe house every night.


Ismail, Turkey

Now, we have electricity, generated from solar system, to charge our telephones, our lanterns, our light is on. Compared to the earlier times, it is very useful, very beautiful.

Multidimensional poverty is found in all developing regions of the world, but two thirds of the those living in multidimensional poverty—886 million people—live in middle income countries.

About 440 million multidimensionally poor live in low-income countries. However, in both groups simple national averages can hid enormous inequality within countries.

The countries with the most multidimensional poverty are India, Nigeria, Ethiopia, Pakistan and Bangladesh.

Yet the report digs deeper to show a significant difference between urban and rural areas. There are 1.1 billion people living in multidimensional poverty in rural areas and 201 million in cities.

Rural vs. Urban

Uganda: 55.1% of people live in multidimensional poverty
Kampala: 6% of people live in multidimensional poverty

Uganda has about 55.1 percent of its population living in multidimensional poverty—about average for Sub-Saharan Africa, yet in Kampala the rate drops to six percent.

Nearly half of those living in multidimensional poverty—663 million—are children, with the youngest bearing the greatest burden.

Poverty hits children more starkly than adults—they are more likely to be deprived in all ten of the indicators.

The numbers are staggering; one in three children is multidimensionally poor, compared to one in six adults.

Data also reveals inequalities even within families.

Adults vs. Children

Adults: 1 in 6 adults is multidimensionally poor
Children: 1 in 3 children is multidimensionally poor

In South Asia, almost a quarter of under-five children live in households where one child is malnourished and at least one is not.

Yet there is good news.

“We looked at data for a group of ten middle- and low-income countries and we found encouraging news that the bottom 40 percent were moving faster than the rest,” says Sabina Alkire, OPHI Director. “A pattern that reduces inequalities in several Sustainable Development Goals.”

Within these ten countries—Peru, Bangladesh, Cambodia, India, Nigeria, Pakistan Viet Nam, DR Congo, Ethiopia and Nigeria—data show that 270 million people have moved out of multidimensional poverty since the last survey.

In India there were 271 million fewer people in poverty in 2016 than in 2006, while in Bangladesh the number dropped by 19 million between 2004 and 2014.

In other countries there was less—or no—absolute reduction, with numbers of multidimensionally poor rising by 28 million across three African countries—DR Congo, Ethiopia, and Nigeria.

The MPI shows the strong connection between poverty and human rights. It reveals how the human rights of the poor are often abused or neglected. As  Article 25  of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights says, “Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and wellbeing of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services.”

To maintain development gains and speed up progress, the  Sustainable Development Goals  were created to end poverty in all its dimensions, protect the planet and ensure that all people enjoy peace and prosperity. Four years into the 2030 Agenda, governments, citizens and the private sector are working together to meet the targets and ensure dignity and wellbeing for everyone.