It’s 2015 and we are starting to see powerful people, organizations and countries come together to try and end extreme poverty on this planet. The rapid growth of technology coupled with the increased visibility of extreme poverty has pushed many to take action.

The simple definition of extreme poverty is those that earn less than $1.25 a day but many are skeptical of using an income-level as a definition. Living in extreme poverty is very difficult. These people often live without access to medicine, food and water, housing or education. Everyday these people have to make life and death decisions between these things that the rest of us take for granted. In 1995 the United Nations defined extreme poverty as:

“a condition characterized by severe deprivation of basic human needs, including food, safe drinking water, sanitation facilities, health, shelter, education and information. It depends not only on income but also on access to services.”

It is estimated that 1.2 billion people live in extreme poverty, and some regions are more susceptible than others. India and China have quickly improved extreme poverty in their countries but countries in sub-Saharan Africa have had a much harder time overcoming their systemic issues that lead to extreme poverty.

Almost all countries are growing but poorer countries are growing very slowly. Poverty has many different levels. One hurdle for ending extreme poverty is corruption. There is a direct correlation between poverty and levels of corruption. Money and revenue from corrupt countries goes into the offshore bank accounts of those countries’ wealthy. No investments are made to improve the country’s infrastructure and institutions.

Geographic location is also highly predictive of a country’s propensity to increase per capita wealth. Countries without access to navigable waters are much less likely to become wealthy. Life is much more difficult in tropical regions like sub-Saharan Africa. From poor soil to adverse conditions for photosynthesis, farming is much less productive. In addition, many countries in tropical regions couldn’t take advantage of the modern use of livestock to farm land because of the Tsetse fly.

A good explanation of why some countries are poor and others rich can be seen in this video, by School of Life:

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9-4V3HR696k]


In 2000, as part of the Millennium Development Goal, the UN aimed to cut global extreme poverty in half by this year. This goal was achieved five years early in 2010. Since then, the major players in the international community including the United Nations, World Bank, NGO’s and wealthy philanthropists have set a goal of ending global extreme poverty by 2030.

Despite all the hurdles that countries with extreme poverty face, We have it in our capabilities to end extreme poverty. With a good understanding of what causes poverty and empirical studies that have proven that poverty can be eliminated, it is just a matter of time before the global poverty reaches zero.

Bill and Melinda Gates are the richest couple in the world and have been hard at work in ending poverty since 2000. In their foundation’s annual letter this year they laid out the three reasons they believe the 2030 goal is possible and what they are doing to help expedite the process.

  • First, they aim to cut child deaths by half through better immunization programs. Vaccines for diarrhea and pneumonia will be widespread.
  • Second, they will help bring farming technologies to poorer regions that will help increase yields.
  • Third, electronic technology and mobile banking will continue its rapid growth in adoption helping poor people save money. This technology will also give them access to online education resources.

Other strategies put forth by the international community include connecting countries to the global economy, spreading water filtration technology, investments in renewable technology and educating people on sex and hygiene.

Ending global poverty is in our sights. As we’ve seen with India, Pakistan, China and Indonesia ending poverty is possible. As technology continues to improve and more people and organizations join the fight, we will be at zero poverty by 2030.