The number of people around the world who continue to live in extreme poverty has fallen by nearly half in about a decade, according to new data released by the World Bank.

Today, there are 690.76 million individuals who live on less than $2 per day, slightly down from 704.06 million last year, the World Bank stated in its 2023 Year in Review released on Wednesday.

However, the World Bank noted that while extreme poverty in middle-income countries has decreased, poverty in the poorest states is still worse than before the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The persistence of poverty in these countries makes other key global development goals much harder to achieve,” the report noted.

It said that the fight against poverty around the world also faced a setback in recent times, particularly during the pandemic, which brought with it not only loss of lives, but other crises that have resulted in about three years of lost progress in anti-poverty efforts.

“Though we have made strides in global poverty reduction, those hard-won gains faced a huge setback with the COVID-19 pandemic,” the report said.

“We have lost three years in the fight against poverty.”

Similar trends can also be observed for people living below $3.65 a day and those living below $6.85 a day.

“In fact, since 2019, the number of people below $6.85 a day have slightly increased,” the World Bank said.

The World Bank noted that 2023 has been the “year of inequality”, as countries that suffered “devastating losses” due to the pandemic continued to face other challenges, including the threats of climate change, fragility, conflict, violence and food insecurity, among others.

“For countries hoping to bounce back from the devastating losses of the COVID-19 pandemic, the battle has been made tougher by the compounding threats of [the mentioned challenges] – that make it difficult for economies across the board to fully recover.”

(Writing by Cleofe Maceda; editing by Seban Scaria)