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Poverty in the HKH

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Capturing mountain specificities requires that multi-dimensional poverty indices extend beyond health, education, and living conditions to include inaccessibility and access to resources and services

Poverty in the HKH

Poverty in the HKH
Source: Authors’ calculation of the multidimensional poverty incidence from national household surveys of respective country, and corresponding reports for Afghanistan, Bhutan, Bangladesh, India, Myanmar, Nepal and Pakistan. For China, OPHI country brief (2018, 2017) is used. For India, mountain part includes 11 States (Himachal Pradesh, Tripura, Meghalaya, Nagaland, Manipur, Mizoram, Jammu and Kashmir, Uttarakhand, Sikkim, Assam, and Arunachal Pradesh). For Nepal, hill and mountain regions are combined as mountain; for Myanmar, mountain part contains Shan, Chin, Kayin, Kayah and Kachin states. For Pakistan, Khyber Pakthunkhwa and Balochistan are considered as the mountain part. For Afghanistan and Bhutan, the whole country is treated as mountainous. For details, please see chapter 3 of the forthcoming report.
Poverty reduction has been at the heart of our work since our establishment. While it is deeply disheartening that poverty persists across the region despite over five decades of poverty alleviation efforts, this makes abundantly clear the need to more effectively target poverty alleviation policies and programmes. Since poverty incidence and severity are disproportionately higher in the mountain areas in almost all the HKH countries, a clear improvement to assist more effective poverty alleviation would address mountain specificities including analysis of the influence of geographic, socio-economic, environmental and cultural factors as well as demographic characteristics.

Poverty assessments are both income and multidimensional but even the more complex multidimensional assessments do not allow us to target and design effectively. Coupled with other problems such as inadequate data, information, and knowledge about the nature, causes, incidence and severity of mountain poverty, alleviating poverty as envisioned by the global community in the SDGs has remained a major challenge in the HKH region.

Realizing the serious gaps in knowledge and understanding about mountain poverty, we undertook a comprehensive assessment of poverty in the HKH region using both an income (consumption) based approach and a multidimensional approach in analysing. While conventional multidimensional poverty indices use three dimensions of poverty (health, education, and living conditions) we added two more dimensions – inaccessibility and access to resources and services – to capture mountain specificities. We used nationally representative household survey data of different periods and different surveys. Where survey data are not available, we used published reports by government, development agencies and research reports to assess the status and trends of poverty, to analyse causes and drivers and to examine HKH government poverty alleviation policies and programmes.

Poverty is declining across the HKH, except in Afghanistan. The pace of poverty alleviation is not uniform; it is fast in China and Bhutan, relatively moderate in Bangladesh, India, Myanmar, Nepal, and Pakistan, but slow in Afghanistan. In Afghanistan, poverty has increased since 2011. One striking finding is that poverty incidence in urban and mountain regions of Nepal is higher in 2010 as compared to 2004.

Poverty incidence is higher in mountain regions. There are what might be called “poverty pockets” within the HKH region, even within countries. Generally, the incidence and severity of poverty both in terms of consumption and multidimensional poverty is higher in mountain regions compared to plain areas, except in Afghanistan and in Bhutan, where the entire country is considered mountainous.

Multidimensional poverty is higher than income poverty in all of the HKH countries. However, there is strong positive relationship between income and multidimensional poverty. As in income poverty, multidimensional poverty is higher in mountain areas compared to the national average (see graph).

We hope that this work will allow improved understanding about mountain poverty. Since mountain challenges such as physical distance and poor connectivity lead to higher costs in education, health, credit, business and other basic services social exclusion is reinforced and disadvantage and marginalization compounded for mountain people. Since there are poverty pockets within the HKH region, policy makers need specific information in order to better target poverty alleviation programmes.

The pace of poverty alleviation is not uniform across the HKH; it is fast in China and Bhutan, relatively moderate in Bangladesh, India, Myanmar, Nepal, and Pakistan, but slow in Afghanistan

Chapter 2

Knowledge generation and use

Augmenting free access to scientific data

An application enables better data visualization of and access to ICIMOD data from the HKH

Benchmark glaciers for monitoring in Afghanistan and Pakistan

Key steps towards more data generation, sharing and regional cooperation to understand and mitigate climate change impacts

Our solutions are in nature

Advocating ecosystem-based adaptation approaches to address the complex impacts of climate change on communities and their environments