2018 in charts

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A record number of people have been forcibly displaced from their homes and an influential new report confirms we’re running out of time to limit global warming. Yet, innovation and disruptive technologies are helping to bring clean energy to millions and connecting hundreds of millions of people to the financial system. These 14 charts tell a story about the challenges we face — and the actions needed to create a more inclusive, sustainable world.

As 2018 comes to an end, extreme poverty is at the lowest level in recorded history but is expected to become increasingly concentrated in one region

1. Extreme poverty is at the lowest level in recorded history
In 1990, more than a third of people in the world lived in extreme poverty — living on $1.90 a day or less. In 2015, the most recent year with robust data, extreme poverty reached 10 percent, the lowest level in recorded history. Over the last three decades, more than one billion people lifted themselves out of extreme poverty and about half of the world’s countries have reduced extreme poverty to below 3 percent.

This is one of the great achievements of our time, but we have a lot more work to do — 736 million people still live in extreme poverty, the pace of poverty reduction is slowing and those living in extreme poverty will be harder to reach. The poverty rate in areas suffering from fragility, conflict and violence climbed to 36 percent in 2015, up from a low of 34.4 percent in 2011, and that rate will likely increase.

2. Extreme poverty is becoming more concentrated in Sub-Saharan Africa
Unlike most of the rest of the world, the total number of extremely poor people in Sub-Saharan Africa is increasing, from 278 million in 1990 to 413 million in 2015. In 2015, Sub-Saharan Africa was home to 27 of the world’s 28 poorest countries and had more extremely poor people than in the rest of the world combined. Nigeria is expected to pass India as the country with the most people living in extreme poverty, if it hasn’t already. While the average poverty rate for other regions was below 13 percent as of 2015, it stood at about 41 percent in Sub-Saharan Africa. According to Poverty and Shared Prosperity 2018, the factors behind the higher levels of poverty in Africa include the region’s slower growth rates, problems caused by conflict and weak institutions, and a lack of success in channeling growth into poverty reduction.

3. 68.5 million people have been forcibly displaced
A record number of people around the world have been forced to flee from persecution, conflict or violence, according to the United Nations Refugee Agency. About 40 million people still live in their own countries and 25.4 million are refugees abroad. Contrary to widely-held perceptions, 85 percent of the world’s refugees were hosted by developing countries in 2017. About 55 high-income countries hosted the rest, with 970,000 in Germany.

Many hosting countries have found their resources strained, including Lebanon, which hosts the largest number of refugees per capita in the world, with about one out of every four of the population a Syrian refugee. Around 70 percent live below the poverty line. Uganda currently hosts more than 1 million South Sudanese refugees. Some 655,500 refugees fled Myanmar to Bangladesh in the space of 100 days in 2017 and today more than 1 million live in Cox’s Bazar in the largest refugee camp in the world. Roughly 3 million people have left Venezuela in recent years amid the deepening economic crisis there, but most are not officially designated as refugees. More than a million people leaving Venezuela have settled in Colombia, according to the International Organization for Migration.

4. The window for keeping global warming to 1.5 degrees C is closing — rapidly
In an influential report, the Inter-Governmental Panel on Climate Change warned that the world must accomplish “rapid and far-reaching” low-carbon transitions in land, energy, industry, buildings, transport, and cities to keep global warming to 1.5 degrees Celcius. The IPCC said that human-caused emissions of carbon dioxide need to fall 45 percent from 2010 levels by 2030 and reach net-zero around 2050. The planet has already warmed to 1 degree Celcius above pre-industrial times, causing “profound alterations to human and natural systems, including increases in droughts, floods and some other types of extreme weather; sea level rise and biodiversity loss.”

According to the report, “By 2100, global sea level rise would be 10 cm lower with global warming of 1.5 degrees Celcius compared with 2 degrees Celcius. The likelihood of an Arctic Ocean free of sea ice in summer would be once per century with global warming of 1.5 degrees Celcius, compared with at least once per decade with 2 degrees Celcius. Coral reefs would decline by 70 to 90 percent with global warming of 1.5 degrees Celcius, whereas virtually all (greater than 99 percent) would be lost with 2 degrees Celcius.”

The World Bank Group’s Shock Waves study estimated an additional 100 million people could be pushed into extreme poverty by climate change. Internal climate migrants are rapidly becoming the human face of climate change. According to the new World Bank report Groundswell-Preparing for Internal Climate Migration, without urgent global and national climate action, Sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia and Latin America could see more than 140 million people move within their countries’ borders by 2050. On 3 December, the bank announced that it would double its current five-year climate-related investments to around $200 billion to support countries taking ambitious climate action, spur renewable energy and help people adapt to climate change.

5. 91 percent of the world’s population lives in places with poor air quality
Nine out of 10 people worldwide breathe polluted air, according to World Health Organization data covering 4,300 cities and settlements in 108 countries. The highest levels are in the Eastern Mediterranean Region and in South-East Asia, with annual mean levels of particulate matter often exceeding more than five times WHO limits, followed by low and middle-income cities in Africa and the Western Pacific. According to the latest air quality database, 97 percent of cities in low- and middle-income countries with more than 100,000 inhabitants do not meet WHO air quality guidelines. WHO estimates 7 million people die every year from ambient (outdoor) and household air pollution, with nearly 90 percent of deaths occurring in low- and middle-income countries. About 4.2 million deaths are attributed to outdoor air pollution whose sources are also sources of high CO2 emissions.

6. At least 33 percent of waste is mismanaged through open dumping or burning
Adequate waste treatment and disposal is almost exclusively the domain of high and upper-middle-income countries. In low-income countries, 93 percent of waste is burned or dumped in roads, open land or waterways, compared with only 2 percent of waste in high-income countries.

At a global scale, solid waste contributes to climate change and is one of the largest sources of pollution in oceans. In 2016, the world generated 242 million metric tons of plastic waste — 12 percent of all municipal solid waste, according to the What a Waste report. Some 90 percent of floating marine debris is plastic, of which nearly 62 percent is food and beverage packaging. Although plastics have been mass-produced for only about 60 years, they persist in open waters for decades and even centuries. The report observes that “plastic waste is choking our oceans, yet our consumption of plastics is only increasing. Cities and countries are rapidly developing without adequate systems in place to manage the changing waste composition of citizens.”

Waste management can be costly. Local governments globally on average can cover only 50 percent of their solid waste management investment costs — nearly half of waste operations are provided by the private sector, nonprofits and civil society, leaving ample opportunity for financing and partnership.

7. Childhood malnutrition and stunting are linked to poor sanitation
More than 2.6 billion people don’t have access to a proper toilet or clean water for washing or drinking. Poor sanitation claims 1.6 million lives each year and contributes to childhood stunting. Worldwide, more than 150 million children are stunted — because of poor prenatal growth due to lack of care for mothers, malnutrition, lack of stimulation and intestinal diseases acquired as babies or young children. Recent research shows that the brains of stunted children have fewer neuronal connections than children who are not stunted — leaving them at a disadvantage at school and at work in an increasingly competitive world.

Besides $10 billion in sanitation investments, the World Bank Group has partnered with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to spur the adoption of cutting edge sanitation technology to bring safe sanitation to everyone.

8. Less than half of students in developing countries meet minimum educational proficiency standards
Globally, we are more educated than ever, but there are dramatic differences in how much children are learning. A new database covering 160 economies harmonizes international and regional test scores to calculate the effective years of schooling that children have experienced. Average test scores range from 600 in the best-performing countries to 300 in the worst-performing ones (with a score of 400 as the benchmark for minimum proficiency).


The reasons for the differences include poorer health and nutrition of children in lower-income countries, fewer years in school (about 260 million children and youth are not in school at all), teacher absenteeism, teachers who don’t meet proficiency standards, and fragility, conflict and violence. The learning database is part of the World Bank Group’s Human Capital Project, which includes an index ranking countries on their outcomes in health and education

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