Living on less than $1.90 a day

The $1.90 per person per day threshold for extreme poverty1 is a standard adopted by the World Bank and other international organizations to reflect the minimum consumption and income level needed to meet a person’s basic needs.


That means that people who fall under that poverty line—that’s 1/8 of the world’s population, or 767 million people² —lack the ability to fulfill basic needs, whether it means eating only one bowl of rice a day or forgoing health care when it’s needed most.


The Trickle Up program is designed specifically to reach and provide a pathway out of poverty for the extreme poor: those who fall well below the threshold for traditional microfinance services. We use a rigorous participant selection process to ensure that our participants are people who live under less than $1.90 per day. While microcredit is reaching millions of the poor every year, the ultra-poor remain virtually invisible. If they are lucky, they might have access to “safety nets” like food aid. But this kind of safety net is just that: a band aid, a survival mechanism rather than a means of addressing the roots of poverty.


Working with the extreme poor is more time consuming and costly than working with other populations because their needs are so vast. For the extreme poor to begin the ladder toward greater economic security and think beyond the day-to-day, it is critical that they learn basic financial skills, learn how to save, gain greater financial stability through a diversity of income-generating activities, and develop the self-confidence they need to persevere and succeed. They often need a great deal of follow-up support in the initial stages of this process. People living in the direst poverty face many unique challenges to breaking the cycle of poverty.

Chronic Hunger

Families can only afford to eat once or twice a day. Women often sacrifice their own nutrition to feed their children and husbands. Hunger disproportionately affects women – 60% of chronically hungry persons are women and girls.3

Geographic Isolation

70% of the poorest live in isolated, tiny, rural villages located hundreds of miles from cities.4 They lack safe transportation and live far beyond where the asphalt road stops.

Distressed Migration

To find work so they can afford to feed their families, fathers and mothers migrate hundreds of miles away from home for 3-6 months each year. This is known as the “hungry season.”5

Climate Change

Climate change causes drought, floods, hurricanes and other natural disasters. Severe weather often wipes out entire villages, homes, businesses and crops, making food, clean water and basic necessities hard to come by.

Social Isolation

Women, people with disabilities, and members of indigenous groups, tribes and scheduled castes comprise the majority of the poorest. They face severe discrimination, often shunned by their communities and families.

Lack of Services

They lack basic services including electricity, running water, navigable roads and adequate shelter. They also lack access to health clinics and government programs and can rarely afford to send their kids to school.

Trickle Up is one of the leading international poverty alleviation organizations working exclusively to serve the world’s poorest and most vulnerable people.

Our programs are specifically tailored to meet the unique needs of women and families living at levels below extreme poverty. By providing a small bit of capital, and vital financial and social services, we help participants create opportunities that can break the vicious cycle of poverty, empowering the poorest to achieve a sustainable level of economic stability.


Through our local partner agencies, Trickle Up also links program participants to a wide range of services. Depending on the capacity of our partners, this may mean access to health services, basic sanitation and nutrition training, literacy training, registration for identity cards that allow them to access supplies at reduced rates, and legal registration of their groups so they can apply for grants or open bank accounts.


Rural poverty

The largest portion of the world’s poor is the 800 million poor women, children, and men who live in rural areas.6 They tend to live in remote areas that are great distances from the nearest markets and basic social services. They are mothers and fathers, most of who are day laborers, subsistence farmers, herders, and migrant workers. They struggle to meet basic everyday needs, such as feeding their families at least two meals a day, or taking their children to a clinic when they have fallen ill. The rural poor also work in insecure and relatively low-paying jobs, have little education, and may experience discrimination as women and as members of ethnic minorities.


For all of these reasons, the rural poor themselves say that they suffer from hunger, ill health, illiteracy, instability, and low self-esteem as well as marginalization from their own governments who are often unresponsive to their needs and concerns. Empowering the rural poor is a critical step in advancing any poverty alleviation effort. Doing so must build on a person’s own willingness and capacities to provide for their family and to forge a more dignified, better future. This requires assets from which to build sustainable livelihoods, education about their rights and how to put those assets to good use, and a safe place to save to continue building those assets and to cope with future hardships. In fact, the most basic financial services reach only 10% of rural communities.7

1 Comment

  1. […] UNHCR field workers are already recognizing the changes our partnership has been making as they reach communities and find refugees who have never come into an aid office for services. Together, UNHCR and Trickle Up are reaching more people more effectively – a major development in our global effort to end extreme poverty. […]