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On the 29th of January, Anika Altaf will defend her PhD thesis on the inclusion and exclusion of extreme poor people in development interventions.

Anika conducted research in Ethiopia, Benin and Bangladesh to find out what the mechanisms are that include and exclude extreme poor people from development interventions. She found that it is very difficult to include the extreme poor. “I have been interested in the topic for a long time,” comments Anika Altaf, “especially when I started working in a project that developed new methodology to evaluate development interventions. Here, we already found that the extreme poor were very difficult to reach. I wanted to find out why!” First, because the extreme poor are not a homogenous group (e.g. they may be disabled, ill or orphaned), but also because extreme poverty is often the result of different causes and reasons.

From the several projects Anika studied in 3 different countries, only one was successful in including the extreme poor. Anika offers some explanations for this, which can also help in developing solutions. For example, there is a lack of clear conceptualization of extreme poor people, a lack of (proper) targeting of this specific category, a lack of transparency in the targeting process, as well as a lack of monitoring and evaluation from the side of NGOs and government institutions. “It’s extremely important that we involve those that you are trying to help, also in evaluating the projects that are ran. I believe this is the only way that we can really help people” says Anika.

Anika’s research concludes with recommendations to better include the extreme poor in development interventions. “To help the extreme poor, we need serious commitment and specific solutions. I hope organisations working with the extreme poor will take my recommendations into account”.


  • Context specific conceptualizations: we need to see extreme poor people as a ‘category in itself’ as opposed to a sub-category of poor people
  • Multiple forms of exclusion: there is external exclusion at play, as well as self-exclusion, which both need to be targeted  
  • Holistic interventions: the research shows that interventions should also include for example skill training and coaching
  • Social protection policies: social protection policies are essential in addressing the extreme poor people who require permanent or long term assistance (e.g. elderly, severely disabled).
  • Global responsibility: eradicating (extreme) poverty is a concern for us all, not just for countries in the global south.

More information

Anika’s PhD defense ceremony is open for the public.