Lesotho - Poverty and wealth

Despite significant economic progress, Lesotho remains one of world's poorest countries. The average citizen

GDP per Capita (US$)
Country 1975 1980 1985 1990 1998
Lesotho 220 311 295 370 486
United States 19,364 21,529 23,200 25,363 29,683
South Africa 4,574 4,620 4,229 4,113 3,918
Swaziland 1,073 1,046 1,035 1,446 1,409
SOURCE: United Nations. Human Development Report 2000; Trends in human development and per capita income.

Distribution of Income or Consumption by Percentage Share: Lesotho
Lowest 10% 0.9
Lowest 20% 2.8
Second 20% 6.5
Third 20% 11.2
Fourth 20% 19.4
Highest 20% 60.1
Highest 10% 43.4
Survey year: 1986-87
Note: This information refers to expenditure shares by percentiles of the population and is ranked by per capita expenditure.
SOURCE: 2000 World Development Indicators [CD-ROM].

survives on less than 2 dollars per day. Half the population exists below the United Nations poverty line. Only 14 percent of the urban residents have good access to water. The most telling statistic is that 16.5 percent of children under 5 years of age suffer from malnutrition, a figure that swells during droughts.

In comparison to the majority of African nations the overall health of the population is good. The mountainous climate and southern latitude preclude tropical diseases that devastate developing regions elsewhere. Public health expenditures amount to only 3.7 percent of the GDP in 1990-98, yet 80 percent of the population has access to health services even though many medicines are unavailable. Those with money can use South Africa's excellent health system. There are 50 doctors and 33 nurses per 10,000 people. Only 23 percent use birth control.

The AIDS epidemic that is pervasive throughout Africa is evident in Lesotho. In 2001, 25 percent of those between the ages of 15 and 49 were infected with HIV/AIDS, and the rate grows each year. Tuberculosis also strains the health-care system to capacity. The government is sponsoring aggressive prevention, control, and screening programs for both diseases. In 2000, the World Bank issued a US$6.5 million credit to improve access to quality preventive, curative, and rehabilitative health care services.

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