Poverty & Healthcare

Two halves

Nearly two-thirds of Nigeria’s population live below the poverty line, which means over 100 million people live in absolute poverty, surviving on less than one dollar a day.

Preying on people with no hope

With little development and few social welfare programmes, extremist groups in the north are easily able to recruit poor and desperate young men to their cause.

According to Nigeria’s National Bureau of Statistics, the number of poor is rising; in 2004, 55% of people were living in absolute poverty. By 2010, this had risen to 61%.

The situation is particularly bad in northern states where over three-quarters of the population live in absolute poverty.

  • Streets of Nigeria
  • Life in Nigeria

Malaria and other health threats

The most common illnesses are malaria, tuberculosis and cholera, though malaria is by far and away the biggest threat to health. Between 3–4 million cases of malaria are reported each year.

Over a quarter of deaths among under-fives (around 250,000 young children) are caused by malaria each year.


Around 3.3 million Nigerians are living with HIV, which equates to 3.6% of the adult population (UNAIDS 2009 data). This compares to 0.2% of adults in the UK.

Nigeria is also one of the last countries in the world (along with India, Pakistan and Afghanistan) where polio remains an annual threat – see Polio. An internationally-funded polio campaign is underway and in 2011, more than 29 million children were immunized across 20 of Nigeria’s northern states.

With widespread poverty, particularly in the north, over a quarter of young children (under five) are underweight in Nigeria, while around two-fifths are stunted (World Health Organisation 2000–2009).