People living in extreme poverty too often experience the denial of basic human dignity—forced to make trade-offs of what is possible on an income that is literally pocket change for people in the developed world. Food comes at the expense of medicine, clothing at the expense of a roof over one’s head, water at the expense of education. Every trade-off is a potential disaster for the extreme poor; it is an insult to every person’s basic humanity.

The number of people classified as extremely poor (living on less than $1.25/day) has been reduced by 700 million over the last 20 years. Given this progress, USAID and other development partners believe that extreme poverty can continue to be reduced and be ultimately eliminated by 2030. Some unit of measure must be used, of course (agreed to be $1.25 per day), but using a precise number for income is but a crude indication of the dividing line between having to make heartbreaking choices and not.

Some wonder if it is actually viable to create a world free from extreme poverty. What has happened over the past 25 years provides the best indication of what is possible. The Millennium Development Goal (MDG) of halving extreme poverty was met five years ahead of schedule, in 2010. The mortality rate of children under 5 years of age has dropped by half since 1990. And both the maternal mortality rate and hunger rate nearly halved in the same period of time.

To be sure, there is a tremendous amount of work to be done—over 1 billion people still live in extreme poverty—but this video speaks to USAID’s resolve to live up to its mission statement and make 2030 truly historic.


Christina Droggitis is a Policy Analyst in the Bureau for Policy, Planning and Learning.