6 Eradicate extreme hunger and poverty

Where are we?

Arab countries are on track with respect to halving the proportion of people living below $1.25-a-day. However, this is not the case when looking at the percentage of the population living below national poverty lines. Moreover, poverty in the Arab Least Development Countries (36 per cent) is nearly twice the average for the region. It is noteworthy also that the rate of poverty in the Mashreq sub-region (19 per cent) in the mid-2000s is more than double that in the Maghreb (7 per cent).

At the sub-national level, poverty in Arab regions is heavily concentrated in rural areas. The Arab region lags behind all other regions in indicators of full, productive and decent employment, particularly for women and youth.

Given the low employment to population ratios it is not surprising that unemployment is a major development challenge in most Arab countries. There has been insufficient progress to meet the hunger target and serious concerns over the impact of the food crisis on food deprivation, particularly in the LDCs. Furthermore, the region and all sub-regions did not witness any reduction in the depth of hunger, which measures how far the food-deprived population lies below the minimum dietary intake.

Despite the overall gloomy picture, past trends and future prospects for achieving Goal 1 vary remarkably within the region. Thus, rapid progress on employment and poverty in the Maghreb countries contrasts sharply with limited or no progress in the Mashreq sub-region. In the LDCs sub-region, poverty and hunger are expected to have risen since 2005, as a result of rising food and fuel prices.


Proportion of people living on less than $1.25-a-day for Arab countries and sub-regions (A) and by country (B), percentage, 1990-1995 and 2005-2009

Source: World Bank POVCAL datasets (in 2005 PPP) and UNDP estimates derived from HIES unit record data.

UNDP's work in the Arab States

Targets for MDG1
  1. Reduce by half the proportion of people living on less than a dollar a day
    • Proportion of population below $1 (PPP) per day
    • Poverty gap ratio
    • Share of poorest quintile in national consumption
  2. Achieve full and productive employment and decent work for all, including women and young people
    • Growth rate of GDP per person employed
    • Employment-to-population ratio
    • Proportion of employed people living below $1 (PPP) per day
    • Proportion of own-account and contributing family workers in total employment
  3. Reduce by half the proportion of people who suffer from hunger
    • Prevalence of underweight children under-five years of age
    • Proportion of population below minimum level of dietary energy consumption