What It Looks Like To Live On $1.25 A Day

Published January 14, 2015
Updated January 3, 2020

Many have made it their life's work to address global poverty. Extreme poverty has halved since 1990, but there's more work to be done.

Do you have access to $1.25? If so, how much can it buy you? The World Bank and the United Nations have been asking those very questions for years.

Extreme poverty is defined as earning less than $1.25 a day in 2005 prices, increased from the $1 a day originally set forth by the World Bank in 1996, which was still not enough to buy a hot dog combo at Costco. According to 2011 estimates, around 17 percent of the world—or around 1.18 billion people—live in extreme poverty. This is a taste of what their lives look like:

Central African Republic, 62% population living at national poverty lines

Global Poverty
Poverty in general is defined by the World Bank as a deprivation in well-being, which covers low incomes and lack of access to services necessary for survival with dignity.

India, 21.9% population living at national poverty lines

Global Poverty India
Many living in poverty do not have access to clean water and sanitation, equitable physical security, and adequate healthcare. Source: Your Article Library


Global Poverty India Cups
The majority of those that survive in extreme poverty live in Sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia, East Asia and the Pacific. Almost half live in India and China alone. Source: Christian Science Monitor

Bangladesh, 31.5% population living at national poverty lines

Global Poverty Bangladesh
Three other nations have the highest amount of poverty stricken individuals: Nigeria, Bangladesh and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Source: Blogspot

Ethiopia, 29.6% population living at national poverty lines

Ethiopia Poverty
Five countries with the highest numbers of individuals in poverty account for 80% of the world’s poor. They are Kenya, Indonesia, Pakistan, Tanzania and Ethiopia.

Malawi, 50.7% population living at national poverty lines

Global Poverty Malawi Water
Rural areas account for 75% of those who live on less than a dollar a day. Source: All Water

Madagascar, 75.3% population living at national poverty lines

Global Poverty Madagascar
However, urban slum growth continues, as people migrate from rural locations in search of better job opportunities but cannot afford housing in the cities. Source: Wordpress

China, 10.2% population living at national poverty lines

Global Poverty China
Over 1.2 billion people live in extreme poverty globally, many of whom are in war-torn countries.


Global Poverty China Trash Bike
In urban areas, like this one in China, many families are reduced to fishing through landfills to find sustenance or collecting garbage to sell. Source: GB Times

Somalia, 73% poverty rate

Global Poverty Somalia Drought
Congo, Zimbabwe, Somalia, Burundi and Liberia have the smallest gross domestic product outputs and rampant poverty. Droughts, like this one in Somalia, have a disproportionately negative impact on many subsistence farmers. Source: Tck Tck Tck


Global Poverty Somalia
22,000 children die daily due to poverty. Between 27% and 28% of children suffer from stunted growth and development because of their living conditions. Source: Xinhua Net

Kenya, 45.9

Global Poverty Kenya
2.6 billion people in the world lack proper sanitation and access to clean water, like this child in the Kibera slums of Nairobi. Source: Nigerian Current

Kenya, 45.9% population living at national poverty lines

Global Poverty Kenya Kibera
Poverty contributes to hunger and low health, and is exacerbated by government fragility and conflict. Source: Blogspot

Democratic Republic of the Congo, 71.3% population living at national poverty lines

Global Poverty DRC Refugeesw
Civil war has plagued the Democratic Republic of Congo, formerly Zaire. The Second Congo War involved nine African nations and resulted in the deaths of 5.4 million people. Source: Hear Congo

Democratic Republic Of The Congo

Global Poverty DRC
Rwandan rebels at the heart of regional conflict continue to hide out in the DRC, though the Congolese government has begun a process to weed them out, send them to disarmament camps and relocate them to another country. Source: Internal Displacement

Liberia, 63.8% population living at national poverty lines

Global Poverty Liberia
Reintegration policies focus on returning rebels from civil wars to communities. In many cases, particularly with Liberia, the rebels are returned to areas where they committed acts of violence.


Global Poverty Liberia
In Liberia, rape was employed as a tool of war between 1999 and 2003, leaving many women afraid for the day when their attackers would return to their communities. Fearful women tend to participate less in society—even when they are included politically—which lends itself to poverty. Source: Cloud Front

Afghanistan, 35.8% population living at national poverty lines

Global Poverty Afghanistan
Studies from the World Bank state that more than 9 million Afghans live in poverty. The conflict in Afghanistan has displaced thousands and forced many into Pakistan to seek refuge from the violence. Source: Free Speech


Global Poverty Afghanistan Mill
In nations where war and violence are common, people often lose land, resources and households to looting and scorched earth policies. Source: VOA News

Zimbabwe, 72.3% population living at national poverty lines

Global Poverty Zimbabwe
Institutional transformations often occur when governments are overthrown—during or following war. This often leads to changes in access to educational opportunities, land ownership and voting rights.

Global Poverty Zimbabwe Kids
A 1998 study noted that in the United States and Europe, over 17 billion dollars were spent on pet food alone. Compare that to the $6 billion that could be used to ensure that everyone of school age was enrolled in an educational program within a year. Source: Web Governments

Burundi, 66.9% population living at national poverty lines

Global Poverty Burundi
In another shocking statistic, 780 billion dollars were invested in global military spending in 1998, but it would have only taken $9 billion to provide sanitation services to everyone. Source: Nihehe

Central African Republic, 62% population living at national poverty lines

Global Poverty CAR Bangui
Some studies also suggest that poverty leads to violence, since people might see it as more beneficial to participate in crime than attempt to survive the repercussions of going against the gangs or warlords in power. Source: Bella Naija

Guatemala, 53.7% population living at national poverty lines

Guatemala suffers from heavy gang violence and is the poorest nation in Latin America. Gangs control over half of their territory and the government permits them to do so. Source: Sense And Sustainability

Nepal. 25.2% population living at national poverty lines

Global Poverty Nepal Swing
Even with very little, children still find ways to have fun. This often means—as seen here—playing in stagnant puddles and landfills, which exposes them to illnesses. Source: City Lab


Global Poverty Nepal
USAID programs have contributed significantly to the improvement of child survivability rates. Infant mortality rates have dropped by 10% in just eight years. Source: Volunteer Summer Nepal

South Sudan, 50.6% population living at national poverty lines

Global Poverty South Sudan
Infectious diseases continue to be a serious problem for those living in poverty. Every year, there are 350 to 500 million cases of malaria. One million people die each year from its effects. South Sudan has the highest malaria burden in Subsaharan Africa. Source: Oxfam

South Sudan

Global Poverty South Sudan Water
Many diseases are a result of poor nutrition, filthy water and indoor air pollution caused by burning biomass fuels in poorly ventilated homes. Source: IPS News

Tanzania, 28.2% population living at national poverty lines

Global Poverty Tanzania
Medicines for many diseases that affect poverty-stricken areas are often too expensive for the people living in such conditions.


Global Poverty Tanzania Schoolchildren
One of the Millennium Development Goals set forth by the United Nations in 1990 was to halve extreme poverty rates by 2015. Despite the overwhelming numbers we see, the UN has achieved that goal.

Indonesia, 11.4% population living at national poverty lines

Poverty In Indonesia
Rehydration therapy can be used to treat diarrheal conditions but it is often not accessible by those most in need.


Global Poverty Indonesia
Focused efforts on vaccinations in developing nations began in 2000, resulting in measles deaths dropping by 74% worldwide.

Congo, 46.5% population living at national poverty lines

Global Poverty Congo
Many in impoverished nations continue to suffer from HIV/AIDS, without any treatment. 2 million children under the age of 15 currently suffer from the virus. Source: WWF

Haiti, 58.5% population living at national poverty lines

Global Poverty Haiti
Haiti remains the poorest nation in the Western Hemisphere and has been wrought by political strife throughout most of its existence. Two fifths of Haitians depend on subsistence farming to survive and are greatly susceptible to natural disasters, including the earthquake of 2010. Source: Wordpress


Haiti House Poverty
Some of the country’s leadership is involved in the illegal drug trade and have been since the 1980s. Delays in municipal and federal elections are also frequent, leading the people to feel as though they have no voice. Source: CFR

Pakistan, 12.4% population living at national poverty lines

Global Poverty Pakistan Woman
In June 2005, finance ministers for the G8 agreed to provide enough funds to the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund and the African Development Bank to cancel $40 - $55 billion in debt owed by members of exceedingly poor nations. Source: The Politic


Global Poverty Pakistan
Trade, education and health initiatives work to improve conditions, but there is still much more work to do. Source: GUIM

Nigeria, 46% population living at national poverty lines

Global Poverty Nigeria
The UN has fallen under scrutiny for their Millennium Goals, which also include empowerment of women, combating diseases like malaria and reducing child mortality rates, because of their lack of oversight and general suggestions. Source: DAHW

Togo, 58.7% population living at national poverty lines

Global Poverty Togo
Through organizations and entrepreneurs, people are trying to set up long term solutions to address poverty in poor nations, including job creation and fair trade partnerships. Source: Georgia Tech


Global Poverty Togo Shea
Women in Togo produce shea butter, which will then be used to produce fair trade beauty products for ethical manufacturers. More opportunities like this provide chances to equitably engage in the global market. Source: Trade As One

Who benefits from poverty? Check the video below, featuring international development scholar Ananya Roy:

Susan Sims
When she's not fighting crime or cleaning the garbage disposal, you can find Susan writing about travel, science and things that go bump in the night.
Savannah Cox
Savannah Cox holds a Master's in International Affairs from The New School as well as a PhD from the University of California, Berkeley, and now serves as an Assistant Professor at the University of Sheffield. Her work as a writer has also appeared on DNAinfo.
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Sims, Susan. "What It Looks Like To Live On $1.25 A Day." AllThatsInteresting.com, January 14, 2015, https://allthatsinteresting.com/global-poverty. Accessed May 21, 2024.