News Column

What does it mean to be poor in Europe and Central Asia? It is living on less than $2.5 each day in coldest region – World Bank

February 13, 2014

Poverty remains a real issue in Europe and Central Asia. As a percentage of population, the number of people living on $1.25 or less per day in the region was 0.7 percent in 2010, according to World Bank data. That compares to 31 percent in South Asia and 48.5 percent in sub-Saharan Africa. But in Europe and Central Asia, $1.25 per day is seldom enough to survive. The biggest, and most unique, problem that families face in ECA is its harsh and extremely cold winters that stretch for months. Winters here mean temperatures as low as -30 degrees Celsius (-22 degrees Fahrenheit), sometimes dipping to as low as -45 degrees Celsius (-49 degrees Fahrenheit) in the coldest parts of the region. The severe cold means families in ECA need to spend a significant amount of money not only to stay warm but to also ensure that they get the minimum required amount of calories to survive winters. The average household in ECA spends over 7 percent of its income to pay for energy and food, compared to 4.7 percent in the East Asia and Pacific region and 4.6 percent in the Latin America and Caribbean region. These costs add up and even with $2.50 per day for each person, families in the region struggle to afford heating and food, let alone other living expenses. Such households are considered to be extremely poor. There are others who live on $5 per day, and while their struggle is not as acute, they still live in poverty-like conditions. When these conditions are taken into account, 80 million people in ECA live in poverty today, according to latest World Bank data. Living on $2.50 a day or $5 per day is hard to imagine. Yet, it is the reality for millions of people in the region. The World Bank recently talked to several such families in Armenia, the Kyrgyz Republic, Poland and Serbia to document their struggles. These families talked about their daily lives and the tough choices they are constantly forced to make because their income is often insufficient to cover even basic everyday needs. But all families also talked about hope, and how they wanted, and believed, that their children could have a better future. These families are the face of poverty in Europe and Central Asia. The Face of Poverty project showcases the stories of these families in their own, compelling voices that shine the spotlight on a reality that people often forget about the region. It also aims to show how the World Bank's lending and analytical advice can help countries in the region address the needs of the most vulnerable, and support the Bank's goals to end poverty and promote shared prosperity.

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Source: AKIpress News Agency (Kyrgyz Republic)

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