7 facts about child poverty you should know

As we start to celebrate the lasting progress in tackling poverty around the world for the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty (17 October), we are bringing attention to children, who have been so often missed from poverty debates.

Here are 7 facts that galvanize UNICEF and partners to take action to end child poverty:

1.Today 1 billion less people live on extreme poverty than 20 years ago

The world has been extraordinarily successful in tackling extreme poverty. Between 1990 and 2012, the proportion of people living in extreme poverty has been more than halved, achieving the first Millennium Development Goal. If we follow this trend, analysts say we could eradicate extreme poverty by 2030.

2. Children account for nearly half of the world’s extreme poor

And yet over 900 million people – or 1 in 7 people – are still living in extreme poverty. Many are kids. The latest data tells us that 47 percent of those living in extreme poverty are 18 years old or younger. If we want to end poverty one day, we need to focus on them.

3. In sub-Saharan Africa alone, 247 million children are deprived of their basic rights

Child poverty is about more than just money – it’s multidimensional. For children, poverty means being deprived in crucial aspects of their lives such as nutrition, health, water, education or shelter. UNICEF estimates that 2 in 3 children across 30 sub-Saharan countries suffer from two or more of these deprivations.

4. 1 in 4 children are living in poverty in the world’s richest countries

Children are affected by poverty in rich countries too. Today, there are 26 million children at risk of poverty or social exclusion in the EU. And the ‘great recession’ has plunged an increasing number of children into relative poverty across the world’s most developed countries, revealing that child poverty is a universal challenge that requires a global response.

5. In almost every country in the world children are more likely to live in poverty than adults

Whether using the extreme poverty line, or the Multidimensional Poverty Index, data tells us children are more likely to live in poverty than other groups. Ending child poverty is a challenge in many countries around the world and one of the world’s most urgent tasks.

6. Only half of all countries in the world have child poverty data

Data is the basis for ending child poverty. Our analysis tells us that only around half of all countries have data on child poverty, and this is often infrequently produced and reported. We now have a unique opportunity to change this as we start to monitor the newly agreed SDGs.

7. Only one-third of the poorest are covered by social protection

Social protection programmes have demonstrated long-lasting benefits for many families and children living in poverty, yet only one-third of the world’s poor are covered. To end child poverty, we must ensure children are protected from risks and vulnerability and have better access to the services they need.

We now have a huge opportunity to change these facts, and support efforts to end child poverty as part of the new Sustainable Development Goals. The Global Goals have taken us a significant step forward by including children within the poverty targets for the very first time.

But to achieve this goal we must also remember those who are still left behind, including the many children around the world that live in poverty. Learn more about the faces of child poverty and how can countries better measure child poverty as part of the SDGs.

UNICEF will be among those within the development community, working with a coalition of partners, focusing on ending child poverty as part of the SDGs. See our join statement, Towards the End of Child Poverty.

I hope these facts will inspire others to take action and decide to join us in the fight to end child poverty starting today.

Antonio Franco Garcia is an Economic and Social Policy Consultant at UNICEF HQ. Follow him on Twitter @AntonioFranco__ 


1. Beegle, K, Olinto, P, Sobrado, C, Uematsu, H, Kim, Y S, & Ashwill, M (2014). Ending Extreme Poverty and Promoting Shared Prosperity: Could There Be Trade-off Between These Two Goals?. Inequality in Focus, 3(1), 1-6. (Fact 5);
2. Cruz, M, Foster, J, Quillin, B, & Schellekens, P (2015), Ending Extreme Poverty and Sharing Prosperity: Progress and Policies. Policy Research Note, World Bank Group. (Facts 1,2);
3. de Milliano, M and Plavgo, I (2015) Analysing child poverty and deprivation in sub-Saharan Africa. Innocenti Working Papers 2014-19. (Fact 3);
4. Eurostat (2013) European Union Statistics on Income and Living Conditions. (Fact 4);
5. Olinto, P, Beegle, K, Sobrado, C and Uematsu, H, (2013), ‘The State of the Poor: Where are the poor, where is extreme poverty harder to end, and what is the current profile of the world’s poor?, The World Bank – Economic Premise, no. 125, pp. 1–8. (Fact 2);
6. UNICEF (2014). ‘Children of the Recession: The impact of the economic crisis on child well-being in rich countries’, Innocenti Report Card 12, UNICEF Office of Research, Florence. (Fact 4);
7. UNICEF Country Offices 2015. (Fact 6);
8. Vaz, A (2014). ‘Are children the poorest?’. OPHI Briefing Note. (Fact 5);
9. World Bank (2015). The State of Social Safety Nets 2015. Washington, DC: World Bank. (Fact 7)
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  1. I love children and I support whatever it is that brings a smile, hope and the feeling of being loved to a child

  2. This is an illuminating read! It very clearly conveys the impact and prevalence of child poverty throughout the world. As someone who has spent half of my early life in India and the latter part in Australia, I find that the effects of child poverty are rarely understood.

    For children in the developing world this means a deprivation of basic needs such as food, water and shelter. However for children in affluent societies such as Australia this means being deprived of opportunities, education and career role models. I am currently trying to raise awareness of child poverty in Australia through my social media campaign: https://makethembloomandendchildpoverty.wordpress.com/

    1. Dear Shrishti, thank you for your remarks. The effects of poverty on children are complex and manifold. How poverty impacts their lives depends on the investments of their families, communities and societies. You can find some interesting resources about the impacts of poverty on children and economies in the recent Joint Statement, Towards the End of Child Poverty, available in our website: http://uni.cf/1jFiXWH.

  3. This article means that more attention need to be given to children across the world. They are really vulnerable and helpless. It touches me so much.

    1. Dear Sylvester, than you for reading. Please help us spread the word that we need to protect children from poverty and its effects. We all have a role to play.

  4. One thing I do not understand: doesn’t point 6 invalidate all your mentioned statistics? Please explain why it doesn’t. Thank you.

    1. Dear Jim, thanks for your message. To clarify fact #6, I am referring to national poverty measures. Many countries have data available but do not currently report the number of children living in poverty nationally – the national child poverty rate. As long as child poverty is not measured and reported nationally, it will not be effectively addressed.

      These are major gaps, and make taking a child poverty agenda in particular countries forward challenging. But the data that is available does support the facts outlined in the blog. For example, even where not every country have national estimates, the global estimates (using $1.25 a day) can give a sense of the global burden of poverty on children. Poverty data for children in richer countries is much better, so we have a clear sense of what’s happening there, and some estimates do give also regional number.

      I do agree that looking back at facts 5 and 6 can look confusing together. It might have been clearer to say in almost every country with data children are more likely to live in poverty. That said, we do know a lot about the demographic structure of poverty even in countries without data – so we can say with some confidence – even in countries that haven’t calculated a child poverty rate – that children are more likely to be living in poverty.

      Finally, none of these should take away for the urgent need for calculating child poverty rates everywhere. Not only will it increase our global knowledge, but more importantly, it is a crucial step in driving policies and programmes that can reduce the numbers of children that live in poverty.

      Please stay in touch, and let us know any more questions or thoughts.

  5. A lot has been achieved. Steps are planned to go further.Admirable.As you yourselves state, data isn’t accurate in many countries yet and this fact is crucial for the objectives. We are responsible for the change.Your showing us this truth by different means is the path.

  6. Unfortunately,those unaffected here in the U.K do not recognise child poverty unless they see ‘flies in eyes’ … Psychological,behavioural,as well as poor education and health problems cost millions to manage in childhood and later life…Care system,specialist education ,prisons,medication,welfare,mental health…all tax funded.,so the non affected, non plussed,affluent pay in the end…Perhaps putting a few quid in the next charity box they see would be more economically sound,a good investment…ending child poverty in Britain should be highest on any agenda.We have the most expensive weapons and the poorest children…..just saying.x

    1. I am pleased you found it illuminating. For more updates and news on child poverty, read our blog and follow @UNICEFSocPolicy. And please help us spread the word.

  7. These are alarming facts which without information like this the world at large are oblivious. Great article.

    1. Dear Suresh, thank you for your message. Please continue to read this blog for the latest news on child poverty and help us spread the word by sharing these figures with your friends and family.

    1. Dear Anna, thank you for your note. Education is crucial to breaking the intergenerational cycle of poverty, and allowing children to fulfill their potential. But it is often hard for the poorest children to succeed at school when they face so many challenges driven by poverty and deprivation. We need to address their needs so that they can learn and succeed at school.

  8. What is the annual budget of the UNICEF? Which region in the world gets the highest assistance in the year 2014?

    1. Dear Cynthia, thank you for reading. We find them alarming too. That’s why we decided to focus on children as part of our outreach efforts on the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty. The more people that know, the more likely we will be to influence action to address it.

  9. Una triste realidad , un mundo tan rico , tan diverso y la distribucion de riquesas y medios basicos tan malo…

  10. In sub sahara Africa, we have seen significant improvement in child poverty eradication together with substantial positive changes in children’s health and access to better education through the MDG initiatives. No doubt, by2030 the world would be a better place not only for children alone but for humanity and planet.Nigeria would feature far front in integrating SDG initiatives in its economic and social policy framework to reflect its order of importance to the citizenry.

  11. Please, IS it posible to get a spanish version of this blog, so i can share with my spanish friends