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Can you ace this test on global poverty?

To make sure people understand how much progress has been made–and how much is left–in fighting global poverty, the Gates Foundation made a little quiz.

Can you ace this test on global poverty?
[Photo: Wittayayut/iStock]

“To put it bluntly, decades of stunning progress in the fight against poverty and disease may be on the verge of stalling.” That’s the somber verdict from The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation’s annual “Goalkeepers” report, which tracks the world’s overall efforts against global inequity and toward the U.N.’s Sustainable Development Goals.

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Simply put, that’s because “the poorest parts of the world are growing faster than everywhere else,” the report notes. Younger generations are stuck trying to thrive in areas that are already particularly desolate and unhealthy.

To highlight this problem–and inspire a few solutions–the Gates Foundation created an interactive quiz for readers to test their knowledge by drawing their own approximate trend charts or answering multiple choice questions. Each query is designed to help you view the world in a new way once the truth is revealed. But people learn in different ways. Because the ultimate goal to share what’s working, and to speed up progress, Fast Company took the quiz and made a cheat sheet.

Here’s a look at the some of the most surprising questions and answers:

How did the global extreme poverty rate change between 1990 and 2017?

[Image: The Gates Foundation]
This is an interactive question, where readers are encouraged to draw their own answer on a chart. But as the image above shows, it is also misleading. Overall, the rate of people living below the extreme poverty line has decreased from 36% to 9%. But it’s happened in geographically uneven ways, with major progress in places like Southeast Asia and East Asia, and not so much in Sub-Saharan Africa, where levels still hover around 38%. Projected out to 2050, lingering issues in that region will cause the success curve to slow dramatically and taper off.

How did the population of sub-Saharan Africa change between 1990 and 2017?

[Image: The Gates Foundation]
This is another trace-the-answer question, which comes with the hint that in 1990, the area’s population was already 485 million. It shows that number has more than doubled to around 1 billion today, and is expected to double again to 2 billion by 2050. The takeaway: Now is the time for companies, NGOs, well-known philanthropists, and everyday donors to invest heavily in health and educational programs to ensure rough conditions can get better, not worsen.

Worldwide, what percentage of girls are enrolled in primary school?

[Image: The Gates Foundation]
Among the multiple choices provided–10%, 40%, 70%, and 90%–the correct one is actually the highest: 90%. That’s slightly lower than the global percentage of boys who are enrolled, which is 92%. In sub-Saharan Africa, there have been great strides in early educational enrollment over the last decade and a half, but as the graph above shows, many students in the region are still lagging in core proficiencies like reading and math, which are crucial. The report cites Vietnam’s increasing success at against similar issues by prioritizing learning as culturally important, testing and tracking achievement against national proficiency goals, and changing teaching tactics when they’re proving ineffective.

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How has the number of HIV infections changed between 1990 and 2017?

[Image: The Gates Foundation]
As the graph above shows, the total number of HIV cases globally was still growing from 1990 to the millennium and has since declined; it’s down from a rate of roughly 1 case per 2,500 people to 1 per every 4,000. In Africa, the booming population means many young people are already at risk. The median age in the country is currently 18 years old. Despite that, countries like Zimbabwe have adopted widespread social and medical programming that might be worth replicating elsewhere. As the report notes, Zimbabwe’s average deaths from HIV infection are down 45% since 2010. Its infection rate has also been reduced by 50% overall.

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About the author

Ben Paynter is a senior writer at Fast Company covering social impact, the future of philanthropy, and innovative food companies. His work has appeared in Wired, Bloomberg Businessweek, and the New York Times, among other places.

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