Poor Emiratis? Poverty in the Middle East and beyond

There could be a bit of embarrassment among UAE authorities when they discover their people are almost as poor as the Palestinians. According to a new global survey of poverty released today, the UAE is ranked 98th poorest in the world, just two places behind the Occupied Palestinian Territories, with Kazakhstan dividing them. Jordan won’t be pleased to be fully 20 places worse off than the Palestinians either.

The most deprived country in the Arab World is Mauritania, which suffers from 62% poverty. But the Middle East country with the greatest number of poor is Yemen, with 11.7 million in poverty. Morocco, which really ought to be doing better, is third worst, with 8.9 million poor, or 29% of its total population.

Child in Thula, Yemen

It’s no accident that the worst Arab country is also African – 28 of the poorest 30 countries in the world are. Niger is worst of all, with fully 93% of its people classified as poor. It’s near neighbours Ethiopia and Mali aren’t much better, with 90% and 87% poverty respectively.

Child on rubbish tip beside river in Djenne, Mali

There have been a few stories in the press in recent days about there being more poor in eight Indian states than in all of sub-Saharan Africa, which paints a pretty dire picture of India. But the figures are skewed by the country’s huge population – 55 per cent of Indians, or 645 million people, may be poor but India is still better off than most African countries.

The UAE and the Palestinians, by contrast, suffer 0.6% and 0.7% poverty respectively, so perhaps not so bad after all.

For a full list of the countries in the survey with their scores click here, and for a breakdown of the Middle East  / Arab world with a bit more data click here.

Credit where credit is due: the Multidimensional Poverty Index was put together by the UN Development Programme and the Oxford Poverty & Human Development Initiative (part of the University of Oxford) and will feature in the next UNDP Human Development Report, due out in October. The index assesses the nature and intensity of poverty in education, health, and standard of living, including access to water, sanitation, and electricity.

A street in Axum, Ethiopia