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Looking at Poverty…Through the Eyes of a Child

Bekele Shiferaw's picture
Looking at Poverty…Through the Eyes of a Child  - Photo© Curt Carnemark / World Bank

“I am always hungry, as oftentimes my family and I skip meals. I want to go to school like my friends, but my parents always say it is too expensive. If I go to school, then I can’t work to help them buy food, and then I am hungry again. I am helpless when it comes to changing my situation, I have no voice and there are few people that see things the way I do.”

This is just a fictive sample of the kinds of concerns a disadvantaged child might be experiencing. The depth and dimensions of poverty for children and the resulting policy implications span well beyond nutrition and education, and more often than not, they differ from than those for adults. Children can’t vote and have few advocates, yet their interests in major economic policy issues frequently diverge significantly from those of adults. These divergences may reflect significant repercussions of major policy reforms on many essential aspects of their well-being including nutrition, schooling, and health. These repercussions can, in turn, have a dramatic impact on the future economic growth and human development of the societies in which they live.

To address this divergence, UNICEF’s regional and country offices across Africa have recently commissioned the Partnership for Economic Policy (PEP) to explore a child’s perspective on a variety of major policy issues such as fuel and electricity subsidy reform, public spending on education and the investment of new natural resource revenues. Following PEP’s philosophy of supporting and promoting local analytical capacity to produce reliable evidence for policy, these studies were conducted jointly by local researchers and international experts. A combination of computable general equilibrium (CGE) and microsimulation approaches were also employed.

One of the most encouraging key findings of the research revealed that by diverting only a small share of the budgets involved toward the interests of children, substantial impacts can ensue. For example, investing as little as 10% of public savings from the recent fuel subsidy cuts in Egypt into child cash grants would actually uplift 1.6 million children out of poverty. Similar findings yielded the same results concerning electricity subsidy cuts in Jordan and fuel subsidy cuts in Ghana. In Uganda, a little under 10% of new oil revenues could finance a 3 percentage point increase in education spending (as a share of total public spending), which would have the following wide-ranging benefits for children and the Ugandan society as a whole: over 1-1.4 million additional children in primary school, 340-540,000 additional skilled workers, a 1% increase in the GDP growth rate, and nearly 100,000 children moving out of extreme poverty.

These studies show that it is possible to rigorously and quantitatively provide children’s perspectives on major policy issues. Furthermore, they show that cost of policies to protect and promote child well-being in the context of major policy reforms are modest yet contribute strong, positive impacts on society as a whole through improved growth performance and enhanced human development. 

PEP is a specialized international think-tank and network producing policy-relevant knowledge and building local expertise through key national and international research initiatives. Under its global research programs, PEP has developed numerous analytical tools and methods for analysis of poverty, inequality and distributional impacts, including child poverty and welfare. More information is available at and

  • PEP’s research on child well-being: John Cockburn ([email protected]), former executive director, PEP and currently professor of economics at Laval University in Québec.
  • PEP’s activities in general: Bekele Shiferaw ([email protected]), Executive Director, PEP.
This blog is part of a series featuring Africa-related research on poverty reduction.


Submitted by Enicca on

For a long time, I associated the workongs of the economy and its effects only on the economically active masses. Reading this made me realise how narrow minded I was, because children and the elderly are also severely impacted . The PEP's initiative of involving children in matters of tge economy will be a grear contribution factor for development in africsn countries. Children will be exposed to being open minded, being informed and involved in current issues and defeating Africa's poverty orientated mindset.

Submitted by C Mangcu 14382212 on

This is a great blog to show people how the children that are living in impoverished communities also would like to help get out of the situation but are unable to because they are TOLD by those who couldn't that they can't. There are many blogs about Poverty and it's impact currently on the economy and speaking from a South African citizen's perspective, I believe there is a great deal that one child can do and we shouldn't leave it to big companies that work on masses. We should take a stand and help eradicate poverty. Imagine the decrease if the rich people helped educate the poor to help them move up the ladder that is life. What one person can do millions of others can multiply. I appreciate the article, it brings a great deal of insight to what many may have not preconsidered.

Submitted by SALAU MUSLIM A. on

The children were not only vulnerable to hunger but also to kidnapping, child soldiers and cheap labour. And the innocent children were now being used for suicide bombing in different part of the world.

Submitted by Barack Eddie on

The African Child deserves the rights that all the other children enjoy across the world. The right to education, the right to health care and the right to clean water.

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