Asiaisthe largest and most populous continent in the world. While Qatar, the richest nation in the world, is located in Asia, many Asian countries are poor.
Here is a brief overview of the poorest countries in Asia with their GDP estimates (derived from PPP calculations, per capita).
15) Indonesia – GDP per capita: $5,214
Indonesia is a developing nation. Even though steady economic growth has led to a gradual reduction in overall poverty, there are many opportunities for growth.
Substandard housing in a slum near Jakarta, Indonesia
14) Philippines – GDP per capita: $4,682
Poverty remains a critical social problem in Philippines. More than 25 percent of the population falls below the poverty line. Unmanaged population growth is one of the main reasons for poverty in Philippines.
13) India – GDP per capita: $4,307
Poverty is widespread in India, the largest democracy in the world. In fact poverty in India is a historic reality. However, many welfare and food security initiatives and rapid economic growth after 1991 have mitigated poverty in India.
Dharavi is a slum in Mumbai, India
12) Uzbekistan – GDP per capita: $4,038
Uzbekistan is a rich country with paradoxically poor people. The nation aims to become a market-based economy.
11) Vietnam – GDP per capita: $4,001
Vietnam is a developing country. Hunger and poverty has existed in this nation for a significant amount of time. However, the country’s high economic growth during the first decade of this century has resulted in substantial reduction in poverty.
Urban slum in Hanoi, Vietnam
10) Pakistan – GDP per capita: $3,144
According to the Human Development Index (HDI) 60.3 percent of Pakistan’s population live under $2 a day. Wealth distribution in Pakistan is highly uneven. The top 10 percent of the population earn 27.6 percent and the bottom 10 percent earn only 4.1 percent of the income.
Roof top view of Machar Colony houses
9) Laos – GDP per capita: $3,100
More than a third of the population of Laos continues to live below the global poverty line of US$ 1.25 PPP a day. Even though the nation has benefited by rapid economic growth, not all sections of the population are experiencing the benefits.
8) Papua New Guinea – GDP per capita: $2,283
Papua New Guinea is a resource-rich, low-income nation. Around 40 percent of the nation’s population lives in poverty. The lack of formal employment opportunities for the burgeoning youth population is one of the main reasons for poverty in PNG. As of now, the nation is not on track to meet any of the Millennium Development Goals.
Hanuabada, Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea
7) Kyrgyzstan – GDP per capita: $2,380
Poverty and hunger are major issues in this former Soviet Republic. Almost half the population of this country lives below the poverty line. Often the hunger crisis in Kyrgyzstan is exacerbated by natural disasters.
6) Tajikistan – GDP per capita: $2,373
Around 50 percent of the population of Tajikistan is poor. The nation’s economy never really recovered from the civil war. Poverty is widespread in Tajikistan. Recurring natural disasters have only added to the problem.
Dushanbe, Capital of Tajikistan
5) Yemen – GDP per capita: $2,351
Yemen has the lowest HDI rank among the Arab countries. More than 45 percent of nation’s population is impoverished. Many programs are in place to raise the standard of living of the people, but most of them have been inadequate to meet the needs of the people.
A young boy at Northern Yemen, Mazraq refugee camp waits in line for food
4) Nepal – GDP per capita: $2,310
Nepal is struggling to overcome the legacy of a 10-year Maoist insurrection. Political instability is one of the main reasons for poverty in Nepal.
Slum of Kathmandu
3) Bangladesh – GDP per capita: $2,083
This densely populated country is affected by many problems like political instability, floods, poor infrastructure, inadequate power supply and corruption.
2) Myanmar – GDP per capita: $1,711
This sovereign state in Southeast Asia is one of the world’s most impoverished nations. Its economy depends on agriculture and export trade. Economic mismanagement is one of the main reasons for poverty in Myanmar.
(Photo by Leon Shkolnik) Yangon, Myanmar
1) Afghanistan – GDP per capita: $1,177
The war in this nation, preceded by years of conflict, has had immense negative impact on the standard of living of its people. Complex international governance and insurgent attacks have made Afghanistan the poorest country in Asia. Life in this country is a major struggle for its people, especially for women and children. The nation faces major challenges like lack of health-care facilities, poor infrastructure, substandard sanitation and lack of clean water.
Poverty is a menace in above-mentioned nations. However it is encouraging to note that leaders of some of these nations are committed to eradicate this evil.