Vanuatu - Poverty and wealth

A total of 174 countries are ranked in the United Nations Development Programme's (UNDP) Human Development Report 2000 according to the Human Development Indicator (HDI), which measures a country's state of well-being using income, education, and health measures. The HDI rank for Vanuatu was 118, meaning that it was better off than many African countries, but was the third poorest country in the Pacific. GDP per capita in 1998 was US$1403, nearly twice as much as neighboring Solomon Islands but only about one-twentieth that of the United States.

While there is no adequate information on income distribution, partly because subsistence income is hard to measure, there is evidence that there are varying levels of well-being within the country. Another indicator developed by UNDP is the Human Poverty Index (HPI). It measures conditions for those worst off in a country, such as their health status, education level, access to health services, access to safe water, and malnutrition in children. While to a traveler in Vanuatu there appears to be a kind of "subsistence affluence" in most areas, the HPI suggests that Vanuatu is still a poor country, with the third lowest HPI in the Pacific, at a level similar to that of many of the poorest African countries. For example, illiteracy is estimated at 66 percent, about 23 percent of children under 5 are underweight, and about 20 percent of the population does not have access to adequate health services, according to the UNDP. However, since there is no poverty index in Vanuatu, it is not possible to determine how many people or households can be considered to be poor. The government has many different programs underway to try to overcome some of these problems, and often these are funded by international aid, especially in the areas of education and health.

GDP per Capita (US$)
Country 1975 1980 1985 1990 1998
Vanuatu N/A 1,426 1,672 1,596 1,403
United States 19,364 21,529 23,200 25,363 29,683
Philippines 974 1,166 967 1,064 1,092
Solomon Islands 419 583 666 784 753
SOURCE: United Nations. Human Development Report 2000; Trends in human development and per capita income.
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