Afghanistan launches its National Multidimensional Poverty Index (A-MPI)

On Sunday 31 March, the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan launched its first official national Afghanistan Multidimensional Poverty Index (A-MPI), which is equal to 0.272 and shows that 51.7 percent of people are multidimensionally poor.

“The Multidimensional Poverty Index of Afghanistan complements the monetary poverty measure and uncovers the deprivations experienced by the Afghan people in various aspects of their life”, the Director General of NSIA indicated. He also emphasised that the Afghanistan-MPI will “help the government of Afghanistan with budget allocation, policy coordination and integrated policies”.

The A-MPI has 18 indicators grouped in five dimensions: Health, Education, Living Standards, Work, and Shocks. It complements the monetary poverty measure by providing an overview of poverty nationally. Going a step further, it also gives a high-resolution window into multidimensional poverty.

The A-MPI supports a balanced poverty reduction strategy by bringing into view deprivations that monetary poverty measures do not. It is true that nationally the numbers are similar: the NSIA’s analysis of the ALCS 2016-17 survey showed that 51.7 percent of the population is MPI poor and 54.5 percent of the population are consumption poor. However, these are not necessarily the same people. Only 36.3 percent of Afghans are both income poor and MPI poor. This means that 69.9 percent of the population are either MPI poor, monetary poor – or both.

The report shows a striking yet in-depth portrait of poverty. Singling out children, it finds that 58 percent of all multidimensionally poor people are children under 18 years of age. UNICEF’s Regional Director, Jean Gough, drew attention to the Report’s piercing focus on child poverty, “multidimensional poverty is highest among children. The Multidimensional Poverty Index of Afghanistan, based on data for 2016-17, finds that fully 56.4 percent of children are poor, as compared with just under half of adults. It is a clear call to action”.

Results also show that poverty rates are highest among the Kuchi population, 89 percent of which are MPI poor. In all, rural areas are home to 83 percent of multidimensionally poor people.

Among provinces, Badghis, Nooristan, Kunduz, Zabul and Samangan are the poorest ones, while Kabul, Panjsher, Kapisa, Logar and Pakitlka are the least poor. In particular, the headcount of multidimensional poverty ranges from 15 percent in Kabul to over 85 percent in Baghdis.  In turn, Herat houses the largest absolute number of multidimensionally poor people followed by Nangarhar, Kandahar, Kunduz and Faryab. Kabul is the least poor, but nearly one out of 20 poor persons live in there.

Because the A-MPI starts by finding out how each household is doing in each of these indicators – from assisted delivery to child school attendance, from employment and NEET to security shocks, from cooking fuel to land and livestock – it offers an easy-to-understand yet powerful tool for policy coordination, budgeting and integrated policy design.

The A-MPI can be unpacked to show the precise composition of poverty for any group – be it children, Kuchis, or female-headed households. At the national level, for example, of the 18 indicators, the highest deprivation is in female schooling, where nearly half of the population – 48 percent – live in a household where no female 10 years or older has completed primary schooling or knows how to read and write. The next highest deprivations are in cooking fuel, where 41 percent of people are at risk of indoor air pollution that causes respiratory infections, and 39 percent of Afghans are MPI poor and share their household with a school aged child who is not attending school, while 35 percent live in a house in which a woman failed to receive proper pre-natal care and an assisted delivery. In turn, 25 percent of Afghans are MPI poor and were strongly affected by some kind of security shock from which they have not recovered, 32 percent of people live in MPI poor households where less than one in six persons is employed, and for 23 percent, no one in the labor force is employed.

This information is vitally important for evidence-based policy design. The Afghanistan Multidimensional Poverty Index 2016–2017 Report will be helpful to make integrated and evidence-based policies at national and provincial levels in order to overcome poverty, deprivations and related disadvantages.

The Report, which was financially supported by the UNICEF country office, is the first release of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan’s official and permanent statistic of multidimensional poverty. The NSIA and the Oxford Poverty and Human Development Initiative (OPHI) at the University of Oxford, worked collaboratively on the A-MPI.