Acute poverty prevails in eight Indian states, including Bihar, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal, together accounting for more poor people than in the 26 poorest African nations combined, a new ‘multidimensional’ measure of global poverty has said.

The new measure, called the Multidimensional Poverty Index (MPI), was developed and applied by the Oxford Poverty and Human Development Initiative with UNDP support.

It will be featured in the forthcoming 20th anniversary edition of the UNDP Human Development Report.

An analysis by MPI creators reveals that there are more ‘MPI poor’ people in eight Indian states (421 million in Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Orissa, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, and West Bengal) than in the 26 poorest African countries combined (410 million).

The new poverty measure gives a multidimensional picture of people living in poverty, and is expected to help target development resources more effectively, its creators said.

The MPI supplants the Human Poverty Index, which had been included in the annual Human Development Reports since 1997.

The 2010 UNDP Human Development Report will be published in late October, but research findings from the Multidimensional Poverty Index were made available on Monday at a policy forum in London and on line on the websites of OPHI and the UNDP Human Development Report.

The MPI assesses a range of critical factors or ‘deprivations’ at the household level: from education to health outcomes to assets and services. Taken together, these factors provide a fuller portrait of acute poverty than simple income measures, according to OPHI and UNDP.

The measure reveals the nature and extent of poverty at different levels: from household up to regional, national and international level.

This new multidimensional approach to assessing poverty has been adapted for national use in Mexico, and is now being considered by Chile and Colombia.

“The MPI is like a high resolution lens which reveals a vivid spectrum of challenges facing the poorest households,” said OPHI Director Dr Sabina Alkire, who created the MPI with Professor James Foster of George Washington University and Maria Emma Santos of OPHI.

The UNDP Human Development Report Office is also joining forces with OPHI to promote international discussions on the practical applicability of this multidimensional approach to measuring poverty.

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