Absolute poverty has been seen as a matter of acute deprivation, hunger, premature death and suffering. This captures an important understanding of poverty and its relevance remains widespread in parts of the world today. It focuses attention on the urgent need for action.
However, while there are some circumstances, such as starvation or unsafe water, which do lead to immediate death, most of these criteria require judgements and comparisons. What is classed as acute deprivation will vary from society to society and through time, and what is counted as premature death will depend on average life expectancies. So while there is a core to ideas of absolute poverty relating to the severity of deprivation and the need for immediate action, in practice, it is part of a continuum of a measurement of poverty, indicating it is deeper and worse.
As such, in 1995 the United Nations adopted two definitions of poverty.
Absolute poverty was defined as: