Extreme Poverty

What is extreme poverty and why is it the greatest humanitarian crisis of our generation?

The World Bank estimates that 1.44 billion people live in extreme poverty and subsist on an average of US $1.25 or less a day. But extreme poverty is more than a lack of money or material resources. It is a condition whereby an individual lacks the opportunity to make meaningful choices that will sustainably improve his or her life. By this definition, the Multidimensional Poverty Index estimates that 1.6 billion people are living in extreme poverty.

1.6 billion

of the world’s population are living in extreme poverty1


of extremely poor people live in rural areas2


of extremely poor people live in Sub-Saharan Africa3

“Hunger” is an award-winning short video illustrating poverty statistics.

Numbers present only an academic understanding of the issue. To better understand what extreme poverty feels, smells and sounds like:

Imagine the look on a mother’s face as she decides which of her starving children will not eat that day because even if she doesn’t eat, there still isn’t enough food to go around.

Imagine the hot sun, pouring sweat, blistered feet and aching back of an 8-year-old girl walking two-and-a-half hours each day to fetch water. She fills up her 5-gallon jug with water that might not even be clean, heaves it to her head, turns and walks back home once again.

Imagine sitting at a rickety desk in a dirt-floored schoolhouse desperately wanting read. But there are no books available, your “teacher” can barely read himself, and you are so hungry that you feel faint and can’t concentrate on what he’s saying.

Imagine the sound of crying children, sick and dehydrated from diarrhea. They are so dehydrated that they cry without tears. The medical clinic is miles away, and even if you made it there in time, you don’t have any money to purchase medicine that could save their lives.

Imagine dreaming of having your own business, of providing for your wife and children and giving them a better life. But you have no savings, no access to capital and no training to help you start something on your own.

The scenarios above describe the lives of 1 out of every 5 people on the planet. But wait — it gets worse.

Not only is extreme poverty a crushing and often deadly condition, but it is also a contributing factor to many of the world’s biggest problems: HIV/AIDS, child slavery, unsafe drinking water, corruption, the spread of Ebola and 21st century terrorism and insurgency.

“Extreme poverty is the greatest humanitarian crisis of our time.”

Jake Harriman, CEO and Founder, Nuru International

Trillions of dollars have been spent in the last 50 years to combat extreme poverty, and thanks to the rise of India, China and Brazil, the number of people in extreme poverty has declined. Yet for much of Sub-Saharan Africa, the Middle East and elsewhere, little progress has been made. And in some cases, things have gotten worse.

Extreme poverty is not necessary. It can and must end.

Nuru International is a young organization that believes in a different approach to poverty solutions. Instead of focusing on material deprivations, we agree with Amartya Sen who believes poverty is lacking meaningful choices.

“Development consists of the removal of various types of unfreedoms that leave people with little choice and little opportunity of exercising their reasoned agency.”

Amartya Sen, Nobel Laureate and Professor of Economics and Philosophy at Harvard University

Nuru International envisions a world in which all people live in an enabled environment with lasting, meaningful choices. Then they will be able to engage in healthy behaviors, feed and nourish their families, cope with natural disasters, overcome other challenges and be free to exercise their agency.

We believe that these conditions can best be created and delivered by local leaders who produce and manage programs locally and nationally, combining and leveraging their knowledge, innovation and experience with international and Western expertise, support and resources.

Our vision is to create a world where every person has the ability to make meaningful choices to improve his or her life in a lasting way.

Learn Why