Sustainable Development Goal 1 – End to Poverty By Mark Darko


One of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals established by the United Nations in 2015, calls for the end of poverty in all forms. The official wording is: “No Poverty”. Member countries have pledged to “Leave No One Behind”: underlying the goal is a “powerful commitment to leave no one behind and to reach those farthest behind first”. SDG 1 aims to eradicate every form of extreme poverty including the lack of food, clean drinking water, and sanitation. Achieving this goal includes finding solutions to new threats caused by climate change and conflict. SDG 1 focuses not just on people living in poverty, but also on the services people rely on and social policy that either promotes or prevents poverty.

The goal has seven targets and 13 indicators to measure progress. The five “outcome targets” are: eradication of extreme poverty; reduction of all poverty by half; implementation of social protection systems; ensuring equal rights to ownership, basic services, technology and economic resources; and the building of resilience to environmental, economic and social disasters. The two targets related to “means of achieving” SDG 1 are mobilization of resources to end poverty; and the establishment of poverty eradication policy frameworks at all levels.

Despite the ongoing progress, 10 percent of the world’s population live in poverty and struggle to meet basic needs such as health, education, and access to water and sanitation. Extreme poverty remains prevalent in low-income countries particularly those affected by conflict and political upheaval. In 2015, more than half of the world’s 736 million people living in extreme poverty lived in Sub-Saharan Africa. Without a significant shift in social policy, extreme poverty will dramatically increase by 2030.The rural poverty rate stands at 17.2 percent and 5.3 percent in urban areas (in 2016).Nearly half are children.

One of the key indicators that measure poverty is the proportion of population living below the international and national poverty line. Measuring the proportion of the population covered by social protection systems and living in households with access to basic services is also an indication of the level of poverty. Eradicating poverty has been made more difficult by the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020. Local and national lockdowns led to a collapse in economic activity that reduced or eliminated sources of income and accelerated poverty. A study published in September 2020 found that poverty increased by 7 percent in just a few months, even though it had been steadily decreasing for the last 20 years.

In 2013, an estimated 385 million children lived on less than US$1.90 per day. These figures are unreliable due to huge gaps in data on the status of children worldwide. On average, 97 percent of countries have insufficient data to determine the state of impoverished children and make projections towards SDG Goal 1, and 63 percent of countries have no data on child poverty at all.


COVID-19 has caused the first increase in global poverty (up by 7 percent in just a few months), ending a 20-year streak of progress. Almost 37 million more people have fallen into extreme poverty in 2020, and because of COVID-19, they now live below the US$1.90 a day extreme poverty line. 24  Another estimate put the figure at 71 million people who have been pushed into extreme poverty in 2020. The lock down has led to a collapse in economic activities hence causing reduced income leading to accelerated poverty. It is reported that young workers are two times more seemingly to be suffering from unemployment than their elders.There are projections that Sub-Saharan Africa will have the highest rate of increasing poverty because it already has more populations living close to the international poverty line.

COVID-19 has further increased the challenges of achieving zero poverty goals as well as other SDG goals by 2030. Though many alternative measures are being deployed to get the relevant data, the available tools and methods have not been able to sufficiently address the continuously evolving climate.

In order to achieve and sufficiently monitor the progress of SDGs, decision makers as well as stake holders need access to timely and reliable data. As countries got locked down in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many data collection activities that rely on direct interviews were suspended. The pandemic interrupted data collection. Decision-makers did not have access to reliable data, especially in the early months.

Furthermore, COVID‑19 exposed the inadequacy in the global food chain.The pandemic is having resounding impact on fragile nations for example, 15.6 million Yemeni nationals are estimated to be practically starving on a daily basis with millions more being driven into a state of distress.


Since 1990, countries around the world have taken various measures to reduce poverty and achieved remarkable results. The number of people living in Extreme poverty decreased from 1.8 billion to 776 million in 2013. Still, people continue to live in poverty with the World Bank estimating that 40 million to 60 million people will fall into extreme poverty in 2020. A very low poverty threshold is justified by highlighting the need of those people who are in the least favourable position. That target may not be adequate for human subsistence and basic needs, however, it is for this reason that changes relative to higher poverty lines are also commonly tracked.

Poverty is more than the lack of income or resources: People live in poverty if they lack basic services such as healthcare, security, and education. They also experience hunger, social discrimination, and exclusion from decision-making processes. One possible alternative metric is the Multidimensional Poverty Index.

Women face potentially life-threatening risks from early pregnancy and frequent pregnancies. These can result in lower education and income levels. Poverty affects age groups differently, with the most devastating effects experienced by children. It affects their education, health, nutrition, and security, impacting emotional and spiritual development.[16] Achieving Goal 1 is impeded by lack of economic growth in the poorest countries of the world, growing inequality, increasingly fragile statehood, and the impacts of climate change. Local governments play a relevant role in matters relating to poverty. These roles differ across the world and include:

Proper governance to fulfill the needs of the urban poor and be able to promote accountability and transparency.
Ensuring inclusive education to increase the chance of employability.
Working on the business ethics of community businesses that impact poor and rural communities.
Before the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, the pace of global poverty reduction was retarding, and was forecasted that the global target of ending poverty by 2030 would be missed. However, the pandemic is pushing tens of millions of persons back into extreme poverty, undoing years of progress. It is estimated that the global extreme poverty rate is projected to be 8.4 to 8.8 percent in 2020, which is close to its level in 2017. Consequently, an estimated 40 to 60 million persons will be pushed back into extreme poverty, the first increase in global poverty in more than 20 years.

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Mark Darko, Accra

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