On the poorest continent, the plight of children is dramatic

Africa is considered the poorest continent on earth. Almost every second person living in the states of sub-Saharan Africa lives below the poverty line. Particularly affected by poverty in Africa are the weakest members of society, their children and women.

Poverty in Africa - the indicators

According to the definition of the World Bank is regarded as absolutely poor, who has less than 1.25 US dollars a day to life , and thus lives on the very edge of existence. The United Nations Development Program (UNDP), for its part, sets various indicators in its Human Development Index (HDI) to measure poverty in Africa and all other countries in the world. This includes:

  • the life expectancy at birth,
  • the average school attendance period,
  • the expected school attendance period as well
  • the per capita income.

As the indicators show, education is closely linked to poverty by the United Nations - because those who can not read and write have little chance of getting a skilled job and their livelihood.

Especially in rural areas of Africa extreme poverty continues to increase: A mother with a baby in front of her mud hut near Gode, Ethiopia - Photo: M.Morosini

In the annual report on human development published by the UN, the African countries like Malawi, Liberia, Burundi, Eritrea, Chad, Sierra Leone or Niger are regularly in last places - this has not changed until 2014.

Poverty in Africa - facts and figures

  • Extreme poverty leads to hunger in Africa : More than a quarter of the hungry in the world lives on the African continent. One fifth of people living in Africa are considered malnourished. This gives the continent the highest rate of malnourished people worldwide.
  • More than 30 percent of African children suffer from growth disorders such as stunting due to their chronic malnutrition. This disease causes a physical and mental underdevelopment in children.
  • Sub-Saharan Africa is the region with the highest infant mortality. On average, one in eleven children dies before his fifth birthday. Three of the four countries with the highest infant mortality worldwide are on the African continent: Ethiopia, Nigeria and Kenya. In addition to complications at birth and malnutrition, there are diseases such as pneumonia, diarrheal diseases and malaria, which lead to the early death of many children.
  • In sub-Saharan Africa, 59 million children between the ages of 5 and 17 work instead of playing and going to school. They fight poverty for their families. In Africa, every fifth child is cheated out of child labour for his childhood.
  • 25 million Africans are infected with the HIV virus, including approximately 2.9 million children. Many have lost one or even both parents and live as AIDS orphans on the street.

Poverty in Africa - causes


The extreme poverty in Africa has many reasons, some of which are closely linked. Key causes of poverty in Africa and the suffering of millions of people include:

Growth of population

Population growth on the African continent is rapid, despite numerous prevention and education campaigns. Development success and economic growth can not keep pace with this. The result: more and more Africans live in poverty. According to a recent study by UNICEF, the population of Africa will double by 2050 to two billion people.

War and crises

Of the world's 20 war-related conflicts in 2013, 11 alone were fought on the African continent - all in sub-Saharan Africa. This includes the wars in Sudan and South Sudan, Somalia, Nigeria, Mali, the Democratic Republic of Congo and the Central African Republic. In the crisis regions, agricultural production usually comes to a standstill. Many people flee, are forcibly expelled from their homes and are dependent on outside help. Poverty in Africa is increasing as a result of these wars.

Climatic conditions

The African continent has been suffering more and more from climate change in recent decades: devastating floods and extraordinary drought periods lead to crop failures. The consequences are regular hunger crises and famine in Africa.  Particularly affected are East Africa and the Sahel region.

Child labor instead of school: This boy is looking for a usable dump in a dump. Photo: Claire Ladavicius


Diseases such as AIDS, malaria or Ebola are the cause but also the result of poverty in Africa. Lack of education and inadequate medical care in many regions means that diseases spread faster and can not be treated. The average life expectancy of the population is decreasing, the number of orphans is increasing. Loss of labor is particularly noticeable in agriculture and leads to reduced food production.

Inadequate agricultural infrastructure

Roads, wells, irrigation systems, storage facilities, agricultural machinery - in many regions of Africa agriculture lacks both infrastructure and expertise. That's why local self-help is so important in helping to fight poverty in Africa.

Unjust trade structures

Rich countries create unjust trading structures by shielding their markets with high agricultural tariffs and heavily subsidizing their own agriculture. This suffers agriculture on the African continent and is slowed down in its development from the outset. The governments of the USA, the countries of Europe and other prosperous states thus contribute to poverty in Africa with their policies.

SOS Children's Villages in the fight against poverty in Africa

The SOS Children's Villages in Africa are involved in 46 countries. Orphaned and abandoned children find a new home in the 147 children's villages. With their long-term development projects and emergency humanitarian aid, SOS Children's Villages has been fighting poverty in Africa since 1970.

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