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 25 years ago

The world has been extraordinarily successful in tackling extreme poverty. Between 1990 and 2015, more than a billion people moved out of extreme poverty, achieving the first Millennium Development Goal. Despite this progress, the work to end poverty is far from over and many challenges remain.

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

There are 736 million people living below the extreme poverty line in 2015 – this is 1 in 10 people in the world. Many are kids. The latest estimates tell us that half of those living in extreme poverty are children. It is still shocking that children bear the brunt of global poverty. 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 deprivations of their rights.

4. 1 in 5 children are living in poverty in the world’s richest countries

Children are affected by poverty in rich countries too. In 2017, an estimated 25 percent of children were at risk of poverty or social exclusion in the European Union, revealing that child poverty is a universal challenge that requires a global response.

5. Children are significantly more likely to live in poverty than adults

The accumulated evidence from many studies tells us that children are disproportionately affected by poverty. Indeed, children are twice as likely as adults to live in extreme poor households. Ending child poverty is a challenge in most countries and one of the world’s most urgent tasks.

6. Only half of all countries in the world have updated 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 children are covered by social protection

Social protection programmes have demonstrated long-lasting benefits for many families and children living in poverty. Yet, the vast majority of children still lack access to social protection. To end child poverty, we must ensure all children have access to social protection programmes such as child grants.

We now have a huge opportunity to change these facts, and support efforts to end child poverty. Goal 1 of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) calls for an end to poverty in all its dimensions, aiming to address child poverty 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 are living in poverty. You can learn more about the faces of child poverty around the world here and how countries can 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 a Social Policy Officer at UNICEF. Follow him on Twitter @AntonioFranco__ 


  1. World Bank (2018), Poverty and Shared Prosperity 2018: Piecing Together the Poverty Puzzle. Washington, DC: World Bank. (Fact 1,2);
  2. UNICEF and the World Bank Group (2016), Ending Extreme Poverty: A Focus on Children, Briefing Note, October 2016. (Fact 2)
  3. UNICEF (2016), The State of the World’s Children 2016: A fair chance for every child, New York, 2016. (Facts 3,6)
  4. de Milliano, M and Plavgo, I (2014), Analysing child poverty and deprivation in sub-Saharan Africa. Innocenti Working Papers 2014-19. UNICEF Office of Research, (Fact 3);
  5. Eurostat, Children at risk of poverty or social exclusion. Data extracted in January 2019. (Fact 4);
  6. UNICEF Office of Research (2017), ‘Building the Future: Children and the Sustainable Development Goals in Rich Countries’, Innocenti Report Card 14, UNICEF Office of Research – Innocenti, Florence. (Fact 4);
  7. World Bank (2018), ‘Poverty and Shared Prosperity 2018 : Piecing Together the Poverty Puzzle’, World Bank Group, Washington DC. (Fact 5);
  8. Vaz, A (2014). ‘Are children the poorest?’. OPHI Briefing Note. (Fact 5);
  9. Internal analysis by UNICEF Social Inclusion for 2015 Annual Results Report. (Fact 6)
  10. ILO-UNICEF (2019) Towards universal social protection for children: Achieving SDG 1.3, Joint Report on Social Protection for Children. (Fact 7)

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    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.

  1. 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.

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

  3. 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.

    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.

  4. 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.

  5. 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.

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

  7. 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.

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

  9. 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.

  10. 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

  11. I love children and I support whatever it is that brings a smile, hope and the feeling of being loved to a child