Map of the AmericasIf we look at all the countries that fall within the Western Hemisphere, you will notice there are some sharp differences in economic prosperity. The United States and Canada are quite clearly at the bottom of any list of poor countries, whereas Nicaragua is at the other end of the scale and is currently the second poorest country in the Western Hemisphere.

The Western Hemisphere consists of countries lying to the west of the Prime Meridian. It is a term that usually refers to countries in the Americas, although a few countries from Europe, Africa, Asia and Antarctica also fall into this geographical area. In total, there are fifty-nine countries in the Western Hemisphere, one of which is Nicaragua.

The economic wealth of any given country is normally measured in terms of GDP (Gross Domestic Product). This is generally considered to be a fairly accurate measure of a country’s standard of living and refers to the value of all goods and services produced within a country over a particular period of time.

Based on GDP, what are the poorest countries in the Western Hemisphere?

Haiti: $1,317
Nicaragua: $2,698
Guyana: $4,029
Honduras: $4,275
Bolivia: $4,365
Paraguay: $4,786
Guatemala: $4,907
El Salvador: $7,564
Ecuador: $7,786
Belize: $7,894

The percentage of the population suffering from undernourishment is also a good indicator of how poor a country is and based on figures from the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the list of top ten poorest countries in the Western Hemisphere would change slightly as Nicaragua now falls to third place and the Dominican Republic jumps into second place.

Haiti: 47%
Dominican Republic: 27%
Nicaragua: 27%
Panama: 25%
Bolivia: 23%
Guatemala: 23%
Honduras: 22%
Venezuela: 18%
Paraguay: 15%
Colombia: 14%

Lastly, the Human Development Index (HDI) can also be used to determine how poor a country is. HDI separates developed countries such as Canada from developing and underdeveloped countries such as Nicaragua. The figure is derived from data relating to life expectancy, education and gross national income per capita.

Based on such a criteria, the top ten poorest countries in the Western Hemisphere are:

Haiti: 0.532
Nicaragua: 0.699
Guatemala: 0.703
Bolivia: 0.729
Guyana: 0.729
Honduras: 0.732
El Salvador: 0.747
Paraguay: 0.761
Jamaica: 0.766
Suriname: 0.769

When all three criteria are taken into account, it is not difficult to see that no matter which process of measurement is used, Haiti remains resolutely at the top of the list and is unequivocally the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere.

And despite its wealth of natural resources and strong trade links with the rest of the world, Nicaragua is a close second. Unfortunately, although there have been some signs of economic development over the last ten years, around 46% of the Nicaraguan population still have to survive on less than $1.15 per day.