Benin - Poverty and wealth

One-third of the population live below the poverty line set by Benin, which suggests that close to 50 percent live below the dollar-a-day international poverty line. The dollar-a-day poverty line is based on the income required to provide the absolute minimum of nutrition, clothing, and shelter. Some 29 percent of children under 5 are malnourished (the figure is 1 percent for the United States), and life expectancy is 55 years (in the United States it is 77 years). Almost all those in poverty are in rural areas, relying on small-scale agriculture for their livelihoods and suffering because of poor land, inadequate rainfall, and not enough income to purchase good seeds, fertilizer, or farm machinery. In 1998 Benin was ranked 157th out of 174 countries in the UN's Human Development Index, which combines measures of income, education, and health provision.

In 1995 there was 1 doctor per 200,000 inhabitants. There was 1 midwife per 12,000 pregnant women, and just 42 percent of the population had access to health care. Several international initiatives to improve these figures have been undertaken. The constitution decrees that primary education is compulsory for all, though fees must be paid. In 1996 there was a 62 percent enrollment in primary age education, though this number dropped to 17 percent in secondary education. In 1993 almost US$1 million was set aside for a scheme for rural girls to be exempted from school fees. In 1992 adult literacy stood at 27 percent.

GDP per Capita (US$)
Country 1975 1980 1985 1990 1998
Benin 339 362 387 345 394
United States 19,364 21,529 23,200 25,363 29,683
Nigeria 301 314 230 258 256
Togo 411 454 385 375 333
SOURCE : United Nations. Human Development Report 2000; Trends in human development and per capita income.

Household Consumption in PPP Terms
Country All food Clothing and footwear Fuel and power a Health care b Education b Transport & Communications Other
Benin 52 5 15 5 3 3 17
United States 13 9 9 4 6 8 51
Nigeria 51 5 31 2 8 2 2
Togo N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A
Data represent percentage of consumption in PPP terms.
a Excludes energy used for transport.
b Includes government and private expenditures.
SOURCE : World Bank. World Development Indicators 2000.
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