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UNDP report finds 35% of Cambodians still mired in poverty

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Fishermen cast their nets in Kandal province’s Khsach Kandal district last week. Heng Chivoan

UNDP report finds 35% of Cambodians still mired in poverty

Thirty-five per cent of Cambodians are still living in poverty, with the rural population making up the majority, according to estimates from the 2018 global Multidimensional Poverty Index (MPI) released by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the Oxford Poverty and Human Development Initiative (OPHI) on Thursday.

“The recently released MPI reveals that 40 per cent of the rural population is living in multidimensional poverty, compared to seven per cent in urban settings,” said UNDP Country Director Nick Beresford.

The MPI based on 2014-15 data is repeated at the provincial level, with multidimensional poverty in Phnom Penh estimated at seven per cent of the population versus a sizeable 64 per cent in Preah Vihear and Stung Treng provinces.

Cambodia is not alone. The latest data also reveals the vast majority – 1.1 billion – of the multidimensional poor live in rural areas around the world, where poverty rates, at 36 per cent, are four times higher than among those living in urban areas.

As with global data, children and adolescents under 19 in Cambodia are generally poorer and constitute around 45 per cent of the total poor.

The UNDP said a further 21.1 per cent of the population is vulnerable to poverty, with 12 per cent classified as severely multidimensional poor.

This is especially worrisome as those nearing “poor” are also at risk of falling into multidimensional poverty, which could happen quickly if they suffer setbacks from, among others, sickness, drought and unemployment.

Beresford said that eradicating poverty in all forms remains one of the greatest challenges facing humanity.

While the Cambodian government’s commitment to achieving the UN Sustainable Development Goals is commendable, he said it needs to turn its commitments into actions if it is to reach the universal goal of leaving no one behind by 2030.

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“The Sustainable Development Goals reaffirm international commitment to end poverty, permanently, everywhere."

“They are ambitious in making sure no one is left behind. More importantly, they involve us all to build a more sustainable, safer, and more prosperous planet for all humanity,” he said.

The 2018 MPI provides the most comprehensive view of the many ways in which 1.3 billion people worldwide experience poverty in their daily life.

The new figures show that in 104 primarily low- and middle-income countries, 662 million children are considered multidimensional poor. In 35 countries, half of all children are poor.

The MPI data looked beyond income to understand how people experience poverty in multiple and simultaneous ways.

It identifies how people are being left behind across three key dimensions – health, education and living standards, with those lacking such things as clean water, sanitation, adequate nutrition or primary education.

Traditional poverty measure – often calculated by the number of people who earn less than $1.90 a day – shed light on how little people earn but not on how they experience poverty in their daily lives.

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