Analysing Child Poverty and Deprivation in sub-Saharan Africa

from UN Children's Fund
Published on 30 Nov 2014 View Original

New study on child poverty in Sub-Saharan Africa

Two thirds of children in sub-Saharan Africa experience multiple deprivations

New UNICEF study provides extensive new data and analysis of multidimensional child poverty

(26 January 2015 - Florence, Italy) A recent study on multidimensional poverty in sub-Saharan Africa sheds new light on the most critical deprivations facing children. "Analysing Child Poverty and Deprivation in sub-Saharan Africa", produced by the UNICEF Office of Research - Innocenti, looks at incidence and intensity of child deprivation The 30 countries included in the study represent 78% of the region’s total population.

In the countries analysed, 67% of all children or 247 million children below the age of 18 suffer two or more deprivations at the same time. An estimated 23% of all children, or 87 million are extremely deprived, experiencing four to five deprivations simultaneously.

"This is the first study to quantify multidimensional child poverty in sub-Saharan Africa using data on individual children," said Sudhanshu Handa, Chief of Social and Economic Policy with the UNICEF Office of Research - Innocenti. "A key finding is that national child poverty rankings differ depending on whether one uses monetary or multidimensional child poverty as the yardstick. This has important policy implications. It highlights the need to go beyond simple monetary measures when assessing child well-being." The MODA methodology allows comparability across countries by standardizing indicators and thresholds.

Using the UNICEF Office of Research multiple overlapping deprivation analysis tool, or MODA, in-depth deprivation mapping and analysis is now possible, allowing policies to better target child poverty. For example, malnutrition for young children in the countries studied is similar in rural and urban areas at about 40%, but malnutrition in rural areas is far more often associated with other deprivations such as poor health and low access to sanitation. This finding provides clear evidence that malnutrition in rural areas is one of multiple issues affecting children’s well-being, while in urban areas malnutrition is more likely to be a stand-alone problem.

While two thirds of all children studied experience multiple deprivations, the new paper makes it clear that large differences in incidence occur across countries. The difference between countries with the lowest and the highest multiple deprivation rates is 60 percentage points, ranging from the low of 30% in Gabon to 90% in Ethiopia. Overall, the multidimensional deprivation headcount in the sampled countries is highest in Ethiopia and in countries located at the centre of the African continent: Chad, DR Congo, Niger, and Central African Republic.

According to Handa: "MODA can be viewed as the child focused version of the Multidimensional Poverty index or MPI, a measure of poverty that goes beyond income to look at deprivations such as water, housing, education and health. The indicators that go into MODA are selected for their relevance to child well-being. This allows us to measure child deprivation directly, for each individual child, considered extremely important from an equity stand point." MODA analysis offers some important new methods for analysing the unique experience of multiple deprivations in childhood. It uses the individual child as the unit of measurement rather than the household, as is most often the case in poverty analysis. It categorizes deprivations in an age-appropriate manner allowing for differential analysis of children 0-4 and 5-17. By taking a holistic view of the child it promotes departure from compartmentalized, sector-based approaches.

"The multiple child deprivation approach allows governments to pinpoint exactly which specific deprivations are most important for children. And by looking at overlaps among dimensions, governments can assess whether a single sector or multi-sector approach would be more cost-effective in addressing child poverty. Knowing the exact deprivations children suffer allows precise identification of interventions that can more efficiently address their suffering", said Handa.

In some cases it becomes clear that even where income poverty is low children may be experiencing multiple deprivations. For example, in Gabon, income poverty is 6%, yet 30% of all children experience two or more deprivations. Across 28 of the countries studied monetary poverty is 50% while the rate of multidimensional deprivation in these countries is 68%, underlining the fact that income and deprivation poverty are conceptually different. More clear evidence that both should be used as complementary measures to identify the most vulnerable children and appropriate policy responses.

An in-depth study of Mali provides further examples of how MODA can improve policy and provision. The highest rates of child deprivation are found in Tombouctou and Kidal: regions which do not have the highest monetary poverty rates. Hence, the tool shows us where to start in order to combat child deprivation directly. The Mali analysis also shows that for children age 0-23 months the highest single deprivation is nutrition. For children age 5-14 years on the other hand the highest single deprivation is child labour. These clearly direct us to the sectors that need to be addressed to tackle age-specific child deprivation.

For further information please contact:

Dale Rutstein, Chief of Communication
UNICEF Office of Research - Innocenti
Tel: + 39 335 758 2585

Patrizia Faustini, Senior communication Assistant
UNICEF Office of Research - Innocenti
Tel: +39 055 203 3253