Postcards From Hell

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All states -- even the most robust -- face some degree of instability. But it takes a complex mix of factors - from disease and abject poverty to terrorism and sectarian conflict -- to earn the designation "fragile state." The 12 economic, social, and political indicators factored into the Fragile State Index (FSI) provide results which suggest that, while all nations face challenges, some are up against seemingly insurmountable odds.

This year's Index -- the 10th annual collaboration between Foreign Policy and the Fund for Peace -- assesses 178 countries and ranks each by its total score (the higher a country's score, the weaker the state). The 2014 rankings highlight how much can change in a year, as well as how little: Nine of the top 10 states on the list maintained their unfortunate positions. The following photos depict scenes of conflict and tragedy, but also moments of quiet resilience, in 50 of the world's most fragile states.

Editor's note: some of the following images contain graphic content.

Above, South Sudanese cattle herders stand among their animals in a field in Terekeka, on April 13.

Ali Ngethi/AFP/Getty Images

http://1.%20South%20Sudan,%20112.9%20%20%20%20%20%20%20South%20Sudan,%20which%20has%20been%20high%20on%20the%20list%20of%20fragile%20states%20since%20its%20birth%20as%20a%20nation%20in%202011,%20jumped%20to%20No.%201%20this%20year%20due%20to%20the%20country's%20increasingly%20brutal%20civil%20conflict.%20While%20the%20new%20nation%20has%20faced%20political%20and%20economic%20struggles%20since%20it%20secured%20independence%20from%20Sudan%20three%20years%20ago,%20the%20winter%20of%202013%20marked%20a%20turning%20point%20for%20the%20worse.%20That%20December,%20clashes%20between%20forces%20loyal%20to%20President%20Salva%20Kiir,%20a%20member%20of%20the%20Dinka%20ethnic%20group,%20and%20his%20former%20vice%20president,%20Riek%20Machar,%20a%20Nuer,%20spiraled%20into%20broader%20ethnic-based%20violence,%20plunging%20the%20country%20into%20brutal%20civil%20strife%20that%20has%20left%20thousands%20dead%20and%20more%20than%201%20million%20displaced.%20A%20series%20of%20tenuous%20ceasefires%20brokered%20by%20mediators%20from%20the%20Intergovernmental%20Agency%20for%20Development,%20an%20east%20African%20regional%20bloc,%20have%20done%20little%20to%20aid%20stability.%20Currently,%203.5%20million%20people%20--%20about%20a%20third%20of%20the%20country's%20population%20--%20suffer%20from%20emergency-level%20food%20shortages,%20and%20the%20United%20Nations%20has%20warned%20that%20the%20conflict%20could%20disrupt%20agricultural%20production%20enough%20to%20lead%20to%20full-blown%20famine.%20As%20recently%20as%20May,%20the%20United%20Nations%20Security%20Council%20unanimously%20voted%20to%20shift%20its%20peacekeeping%20mission%20away%20from%20development%20and%20nation-building,%20and%20have%20its%20peacekeepers%20on%20the%20ground%20focus%20instead%20on%20safeguarding%20civilians%20from%20political%20turmoil%20and%20enforcing%20peace%20between%20rival%20factions. %20%20%20%20%20%20%20A%20member%20of%20the%20Lou%20Nuer%20tribe%20comes%20back%20home%20in%20Jonglei%20state,%20on%20July%2023,%202013%20after%20fighting%20against%20the%20rebel%20group%20Yau%20Yau%20in%20Pibor%20county,%20South%20Sudan.%20%20%20%20%20%20%20CAMILLE%20LEPAGE/AFP/Getty%20Images

1. South Sudan, 112.9

South Sudan, which has been high on the list of fragile states since its birth as a nation in 2011, jumped to No. 1 this year due to the country's increasingly brutal civil conflict. While the new nation has faced political and economic struggles since it secured independence from Sudan three years ago, the winter of 2013 marked a turning point for the worse. That December, clashes between forces loyal to President Salva Kiir, a member of the Dinka ethnic group, and his former vice president, Riek Machar, a Nuer, spiraled into broader ethnic-based violence, plunging the country into brutal civil strife that has left thousands dead and more than 1 million displaced. A series of tenuous ceasefires brokered by mediators from the Intergovernmental Agency for Development, an east African regional bloc, have done little to aid stability. Currently, 3.5 million people -- about a third of the country's population -- suffer from emergency-level food shortages, and the United Nations has warned that the conflict could disrupt agricultural production enough to lead to full-blown famine. As recently as May, the United Nations Security Council unanimously voted to shift its peacekeeping mission away from development and nation-building, and have its peacekeepers on the ground focus instead on safeguarding civilians from political turmoil and enforcing peace between rival factions. 

A member of the Lou Nuer tribe comes back home in Jonglei state, on July 23, 2013 after fighting against the rebel group Yau Yau in Pibor county, South Sudan.

CAMILLE LEPAGE/AFP/Getty Images

http://2.%20Somalia,%20112.6%20%20%20%20%20%20%20%20Somalia%20has%20shown%20improvement%20this%20year,%20finally%20moving%20out%20of%20the%20No.%201%20spot,%20which%20it%20previously%20occupied%20for%20the%20past%20six%20years.%20Though%20this%20may%20seem%20like%20a%20small%20change%20in%20the%20ranking%20order,%20it%20reflects%20the%20positive%20developments%20taking%20root%20in%20the%20still-tumultuous%20East%20African%20country.%20The%20year%202013%20saw%20the%20lowest%20levels%20of%20piracy%20--%20for%20which%20the%20waters%20off%20the%20Horn%20of%20Africa%20are%20notorious%20--%20since%202006,%20as%20well%20as%20an%20increasing%20emphasis%20on%20rebuilding%20the%20parts%20of%20the%20country%20that%20the%20government%20has%20reclaimed%20from%20al-Shabab,%20an%20al%20Qaeda-linked%20insurgency.%20These%20rebuilding%20efforts%20have%20even%20caught%20the%20eye%20of%20foreign%20investors%20who%20hope%20to%20capitalize%20on%20the%20building%20boom%20in%20a%20high%20risk%20market.%20As%20more%20Somalis%20who%20had%20previously%20fled%20their%20country%20begin%20to%20return,%20the%20capital%20city,%20Mogadishu,%20is%20seeing%20an%20influx%20of%20restaurants,%20tourism,%20and%20even%20TEDx%20talks%20--%20all%20of%20which%20are%20being%20heralded%20as%20signs%20of%20normalization.%20But%20political%20instability%20continues%20to%20plague%20much%20of%20the%20country%20outside%20the%20capital,%20as%20al-Shabab%20has%20ramped%20up%20attacks%20in%20other%20parts%20of%20Somalia.%20In%20August%202013,%20the%20famously%20unshakable%20aid%20group%20Doctors%20Without%20Borders%20shuttered%20their%20operations%20in%20the%20country%20after%2022%20years%20--%20a%20reminder%20of%20how%20troubled%20Somalia%20remains.%20%20%20%20%20%20Above,%20men%20walk%20through%20a%20flock%20of%20dead%20goats%20in%20the%20area%20around%20Sinujiif%20on%20Nov.%2015,%202013,%20two%20days%20after%20a%20ferocious%20storm%20and%20after%20days%20of%20heavy%20floods%20in%20Somalia's%20northeastern%20Puntland%20region.%20%20%20%20%20%20Mohamed%20Abdiwahab/AFP/Getty%20Images

2. Somalia, 112.6

Somalia has shown improvement this year, finally moving out of the No. 1 spot, which it previously occupied for the past six years. Though this may seem like a small change in the ranking order, it reflects the positive developments taking root in the still-tumultuous East African country. The year 2013 saw the lowest levels of piracy -- for which the waters off the Horn of Africa are notorious -- since 2006, as well as an increasing emphasis on rebuilding the parts of the country that the government has reclaimed from al-Shabab, an al Qaeda-linked insurgency. These rebuilding efforts have even caught the eye of foreign investors who hope to capitalize on the building boom in a high risk market. As more Somalis who had previously fled their country begin to return, the capital city, Mogadishu, is seeing an influx of restaurants, tourism, and even TEDx talks -- all of which are being heralded as signs of normalization. But political instability continues to plague much of the country outside the capital, as al-Shabab has ramped up attacks in other parts of Somalia. In August 2013, the famously unshakable aid group Doctors Without Borders shuttered their operations in the country after 22 years -- a reminder of how troubled Somalia remains.

Above, men walk through a flock of dead goats in the area around Sinujiif on Nov. 15, 2013, two days after a ferocious storm and after days of heavy floods in Somalia's northeastern Puntland region.

Mohamed Abdiwahab/AFP/Getty Images

3. Central African Republic, 110.6

The Central African Republic (CAR) shot up six spots in the rankings this year due to a widening sectarian conflict that has plunged the country into a terrifying cycle of chaos and bloodshed. In March 2013, the Seleka (which means "alliance," in Sango, the CAR's main language), Muslim rebels from the country's marginalized northeast, seized control of the capital, Bangui, ousting President François Bozizé. The Seleka takeover and ensuing carnage set off a vicious and violent series of attacks and counterattacks that have lasted for about 15 months. Muslims, who make up roughly 15 percent of the country's population, have become targets of Christian militias, calling themselves anti-balaka, or "machete," forces. Brutal massacres of Muslims by Christians have prompted tens of thousands of Muslims to flee the country: This "de facto ethnic cleansing," as it has been labeled by aid organizations, has led to the displacement of around a quarter of the country's 4.6 million people. Despite intervention efforts from the United Nations, European Union, and France as well as international aid organizations, continued clashes between militias have halted economic activity, shut down schools, and caused rampant food scarcity.

Mourners wait in a cemetery in Bangui for the coffin of Reverend Paul-Emile Nzale, 76, who was killed in a May 28 attack on a Bangui church.

Marco Longari/AFP/Getty Images

http://4.%20Democratic%20Republic%20of%20Congo,%20110.2%20%20%20%20%20%20%20%20This%20large,%20resource-rich%20country%20has%20long%20been%20at%20the%20center%20of%20crippling%20regional%20instability%20(six%20of%20the%20nine%20countries%20it%20shares%20a%20border%20with%20are%20in%20the%20top%2050%20on%20the%20Fragile%20States%20Index).%20In%20March%202013,%20warlord%20and%20rebel%20leader%20Bosco%20Ntaganda%20surrendered%20to%20the%20U.S.%20Embassy,%20prompting%20the%20M23%20rebels%20--%20anti-government%20militiamen%20formerly%20operating%20in%20the%20country's%20east%20--%20under%20his%20leadership%20to%20lay%20down%20their%20arms%20and%20sign%20a%20peace%20deal,%20concluding%20the%20country's%20most%20serious%20rebellion%20in%20a%20decade.%20However,%20while%20this%20has%20helped%20quell%20the%20violence%20that%20has%20plagued%20the%20country%20since%20the%201990s,%20numerous%20other%20armed%20groups%20continue%20to%20carry%20out%20attacks%20on%20civilians,%20as%20do%20the%20country's%20own%20security%20forces.%20%20%20%20%20%20Democratic%20Republic%20of%20the%20Congo%20soldiers%20march%20towards%20the%20front%20lines%20to%20fight%20a%20rebel%20group%20opposed%20to%20the%20Ugandan%20government,%20near%20Eringeti,%20Dec.%2031,%202013.%20%20%20%20%20%20Alain%20Wandimoyi/AFP/Getty%20Images

4. Democratic Republic of Congo, 110.2

This large, resource-rich country has long been at the center of crippling regional instability (six of the nine countries it shares a border with are in the top 50 on the Fragile States Index). In March 2013, warlord and rebel leader Bosco Ntaganda surrendered to the U.S. Embassy, prompting the M23 rebels -- anti-government militiamen formerly operating in the country's east -- under his leadership to lay down their arms and sign a peace deal, concluding the country's most serious rebellion in a decade. However, while this has helped quell the violence that has plagued the country since the 1990s, numerous other armed groups continue to carry out attacks on civilians, as do the country's own security forces.

Democratic Republic of the Congo soldiers march towards the front lines to fight a rebel group opposed to the Ugandan government, near Eringeti, Dec. 31, 2013.

Alain Wandimoyi/AFP/Getty Images

http://5.%20Sudan,%20110.1%20%20%20%20%20%20%20%20Though%20it's%20not%20been%20the%20case%20in%20past%20years,%20Sudan%20fared%20better%20in%20this%20year's%20rankings%20than%20its%20neighbor%20to%20the%20south%20--%20though%20not%20by%20much.%20In%202013,%20as%20civil%20conflict%20in%20South%20Sudan%20disrupted%20oil%20production,%20the%20Sudanese%20government%20stopped%20subsidizing%20gasoline,%20causing%20prices%20to%20nearly%20double.%20The%20increase%20led%20to%20a%20wave%20of%20deadly%20anti-government%20protests%20in%20the%20nation's%20capital,%20Khartoum.%20By%20some%20estimates,%20over%20800%20activists%20and%20journalists%20were%20arrested%20in%20the%20ensuing%20government%20crackdown%20and%20as%20many%20as%20200%20were%20killed.%20While%20tension%20between%20Sudan%20and%20South%20Sudan%20has%20subsided%20due%20to%20cooperation%20over%20oil%20production,%20insurgents%20along%20the%20southern%20border%20continue%20to%20threaten%20stability.%20Nearly%20a%20decade%20after%20brutal%20war%20in%20Darfur%20led%20to%20the%20displacement%20of%20millions%20of%20Sudanese,%20the%20volatile%20region%20saw%20a%20surge%20in%20violence%20between%20rebels%20and%20the%20central%20government%20in%202013,%20leading%20to%20the%20displacement%20of%20almost%20300,000%20people%20--%20more%20than%20the%20previous%20two%20years%20combined.%20%20%20%20%20%20A%20Sudanese%20woman%20sits%20with%20her%20child%20next%20to%20her%20house%20in%20a%20flooded%20street%20on%20the%20outskirts%20of%20Khartoum%20on%20Aug.%2010,%202013.%20%20%20%20%20%20Ashraf%20Shazly/AFP/Getty%20Images

5. Sudan, 110.1

Though it's not been the case in past years, Sudan fared better in this year's rankings than its neighbor to the south -- though not by much. In 2013, as civil conflict in South Sudan disrupted oil production, the Sudanese government stopped subsidizing gasoline, causing prices to nearly double. The increase led to a wave of deadly anti-government protests in the nation's capital, Khartoum. By some estimates, over 800 activists and journalists were arrested in the ensuing government crackdown and as many as 200 were killed. While tension between Sudan and South Sudan has subsided due to cooperation over oil production, insurgents along the southern border continue to threaten stability. Nearly a decade after brutal war in Darfur led to the displacement of millions of Sudanese, the volatile region saw a surge in violence between rebels and the central government in 2013, leading to the displacement of almost 300,000 people -- more than the previous two years combined.

A Sudanese woman sits with her child next to her house in a flooded street on the outskirts of Khartoum on Aug. 10, 2013.

Ashraf Shazly/AFP/Getty Images

http://6.%20Chad,%20108.7%20%20%20%20%20%20%20%20In%20many%20ways,%20Chad%20suffers%20as%20much%20from%20its%20unfortunate%20location%20--%20situated%20amid%20volatile%20neighbors%20--%20as%20its%20own%20tumultuous%20political%20history.%20Escalating%20violence%20in%20Sudan's%20Darfur%20region%20over%20the%20past%20year%20has%20caused%20over%2030,000%20refugees%20to%20spill%20across%20the%20border,%20while%20the%20increasing%20sectarian%20violence%20in%20the%20Central%20African%20Republic%20(CAR)%20has%20brought%20some%2010,000%20fleeing%20into%20Chad.%20Chadian%20armies,%20meanwhile,%20are%20critical%20to%20peacekeeping%20in%20the%20region,%20sending%20troops%20to%20both%20the%20CAR%20and%20northern%20Mali,%20though%20Chadian%20soldiers%20have%20been%20accused%20of%20actually%20seeking%20to%20destabilize%20the%20CAR%20on%20behalf%20of%20President%20Idriss%20Déby,%20in%20part%20to%20prevent%20the%20CAR%20from%20developing%20an%20oil%20field%20that%20straddles%20the%20two%20countries'%20shared%20border.%20%20%20%20%20%20A%20child%20waits%20near%20a%20military%20line%20at%20French%20military%20camp%20in%20Goz%20Beida%20during%20French%20Defense%20Minister%20Herve%20Morin's%20visit%20to%20southern%20Chad,%20Dec.%2031,%202007.%20%20%20%20%20%20Fred%20Dufour/AFP/Getty%20Images

6. Chad, 108.7

In many ways, Chad suffers as much from its unfortunate location -- situated amid volatile neighbors -- as its own tumultuous political history. Escalating violence in Sudan's Darfur region over the past year has caused over 30,000 refugees to spill across the border, while the increasing sectarian violence in the Central African Republic (CAR) has brought some 10,000 fleeing into Chad. Chadian armies, meanwhile, are critical to peacekeeping in the region, sending troops to both the CAR and northern Mali, though Chadian soldiers have been accused of actually seeking to destabilize the CAR on behalf of President Idriss Déby, in part to prevent the CAR from developing an oil field that straddles the two countries' shared border.

A child waits near a military line at French military camp in Goz Beida during French Defense Minister Herve Morin's visit to southern Chad, Dec. 31, 2007.

Fred Dufour/AFP/Getty Images


http://7.%20Afghanistan,%20106.5%20%20%20%20%20%20%20%20Afghanistan's%20ranking%20on%20the%20index%20remains%20stubbornly%20unchanged%20from%20previous%20years,%20as%20the%20country%20continues%20to%20struggle%20with%20internal%20violence%20and%20fragile%20governmental%20institutions.%20Not%20since%20the%20U.S.%20invasion%20in%202001%20has%20Afghanistan%20seen%20this%20many%20citizens%20leaving%20the%20country,%20which%20is%20still%20racked%20by%20not%20just%20the%20Taliban%20but%20also%20by%20corruption.%20While%20U.S.%20and%20coalition%20casualties%20decreased%20in%202013,%20a%20marked%20upswing%20in%20the%20death%20of%20Afghan%20troops%20and%20civilians%20as%20a%20result,%20in%20part,%20of%20an%20uptick%20in%20Taliban%20attacks,%20does%20not%20bode%20well%20for%20the%20country%20as%20international%20troops%20prepare%20to%20withdraw%20and%20Afghan%20troops%20make%20plans%20to%20take%20the%20lead%20in%20the%20fight%20against%20the%20Taliban%20and%20other%20insurgents.%20Along%20with%20the%20looming%20drawdown,%20the%20billions%20of%20dollars%20in%20foreign%20aid%20that%20have%20poured%20into%20the%20country%20over%20the%20past%20decade%20will%20slow%20to%20a%20trickle,%20and%20the%20effects%20of%20economic%20decline%20are%20already%20visible.%20In%202013,%20the%20country's%20opium%20production%20hit%20record%20levels,%20increasing%20by%20almost%2050%20percent,%20according%20to%20United%20Nations%20estimates.%20%20%20%20%20%20Afghan%20defense%20personnel%20inspect%20the%20scene%20of%20a%20suicide%20attack%20in%20Bazarak%20district,%20Panjshir%20province,%20on%20May%2029,%202013.%20%20%20%20%20%20Shah%20Marai/AFP/Getty%20Images

7. Afghanistan, 106.5

Afghanistan's ranking on the index remains stubbornly unchanged from previous years, as the country continues to struggle with internal violence and fragile governmental institutions. Not since the U.S. invasion in 2001 has Afghanistan seen this many citizens leaving the country, which is still racked by not just the Taliban but also by corruption. While U.S. and coalition casualties decreased in 2013, a marked upswing in the death of Afghan troops and civilians as a result, in part, of an uptick in Taliban attacks, does not bode well for the country as international troops prepare to withdraw and Afghan troops make plans to take the lead in the fight against the Taliban and other insurgents. Along with the looming drawdown, the billions of dollars in foreign aid that have poured into the country over the past decade will slow to a trickle, and the effects of economic decline are already visible. In 2013, the country's opium production hit record levels, increasing by almost 50 percent, according to United Nations estimates.

Afghan defense personnel inspect the scene of a suicide attack in Bazarak district, Panjshir province, on May 29, 2013.

Shah Marai/AFP/Getty Images

8. Yemen, 105.4

Yemen's slightly better performance on this year's index points to the tentatively hopeful changes taking place in a country that may go down as an unlikely Arab Spring success story. This year marks the end of a two-year transition period, marked by coalition governance and peace talks aiming at eventual agreement on a new constitution, following the 2012 resignation of longtime President Ali Abdullah Saleh. But it takes more than movement toward democracy to create a stable country. Sectarian fighting between Sunni government forces and Houthi Shiite rebels plagues the northern regions, while the restive oil-rich south continues to demand further autonomy from Sanaa. Meanwhile, al Qaeda militants continue to stage attacks against the government, and the U.S. drone program in the country remains active. In addition to security concerns, Yemen's various humanitarian crises persist: More than half of Yemenis live below the poverty line and lack access to basic services, including safe drinking water and health care.

A Yemeni girl poses during a procession marking Ashura, in Sanaa, Nov. 14, 2013.

Mohammed Huwais/AFP/Getty Images

9. Haiti, 104.3

Haiti is the poorest country in the Northern Hemisphere and the events of 2013 weren't kind to this small nation. The violent strain of cholera that some claim was brought by U.N. peacekeepers in the wake of the 2010 earthquake continues to take lives, and the lack of access to basic necessities in Haiti, such as clean water and food, has allowed an easily-curable illness to reach epidemic levels: The total number of cases surpassed 700,000 in April 2014, and has claimed the lives of more than 8,500 Haitians. Though 2013 saw slight improvements in the areas of health and primary education, Haiti -- which in 2011 was named the country most at risk from climate change by a British risk analysis firm -- could all-too-easily find itself at the mercy of another natural disaster.

Residents walk amid fumes as workers from Haiti's Ministry of Public Health and Population spray chemicals to exterminate mosquitoes in Port-au-Prince, May 21, 2014.

Hector Retamal/AFP/Getty Images

10. Pakistan, 103.0

Pakistan began 2013 on a promising note. For the first time in the country's tumultuous history, it saw a successful transition from one democratically elected government to another. Cabinet officials who had served their terms to completion quietly stepped down, making room for Nawaz Sharif and his Muslim League to assume leadership. However, one year later, the atmosphere of optimism that surrounded the elections is fading fast. Sectarian violence continues to riddle the country. Attacks on mosques and pilgrims regularly target members of the country's Shiite minority, particularly in the western border town of Quetta, in Baluchistan province. Meanwhile, a peace process between Sharif's government and the Pakistani Taliban (TTP) did little to stem the violence against Pakistan's security forces. The tenuous security situation continues to be an obstacle in humanitarian aid efforts; workers hoping to eradicate polio in the country are regularly targeted by the TTP, for example. Unfortunately, 2014 does not appear to be better so far: Early June's deadly attack on Karachi's international airport served to demonstrate that the Taliban is still capable of spectacular violence.

Above, supporters of slain premier Benazir Bhutto gather in Lahore on the sixth anniversary of her assassination, Dec. 27, 2013.

Arif Ali/AFP/Getty Images

http://11.%20Zimbabwe%20%20%20%20%20%20%20%20Over%20the%20past%20year,%20Zimbabwe's%20performance%20on%20the%20Fragile%20States%20Index%20has%20continued%20its%20slow%20improvement%20--%20moving%20from%20fourth%20in%202010%20to%20eleventh%20in%20this%20year's%20index%20--%20but%20these%20gains%20have%20been%20tempered%20by%20setbacks.%20A%20peaceful%20referendum%20on%20a%20new%20constitution%20in%202013%20brought%20with%20it%20relief%20from%20tough%20European%20sanctions,%20but%20longtime%20leader%20Robert%20Mugabe,%20who%20has%20held%20power%20for%20nearly%20three%20decades,%20was%20once%20again%20accused%20by%20Western%20observers%20of%20staging%20fraudulent%20elections%20in%20July%202013%20to%20return%20himself%20and%20his%20Zanu-PF%20party%20to%20power.%20(Mugabe%20won%20with%2061%20percent%20of%20the%20vote,%20in%20an%20election%20that%20the%20African%20Union%20declared%20"free%20and%20peaceful.")%20On%20the%20economic%20front,%20even%20as%20the%20country%20was%20touted%20in%20October%20for%20achieving%20the%20greatest%20reduction%20in%20poverty%20among%2035%20African%20countries%20over%20ten%20years,%20poverty%20still%20remains%20dire,%20with%20the%20U.N.%20estimating%20that%202.2%20million%20Zimbabweans%20will%20require%20food%20assistance%20this%20year%20alone.%20%20%20%20%20%20Above,%20women%20hang%20clothes%20to%20dry%20in%20Mbare,%20Aug.%204,%202013.%20%20%20%20%20%20Alexander%20Joe/AFP/Getty%20Images

11. Zimbabwe

Over the past year, Zimbabwe's performance on the Fragile States Index has continued its slow improvement -- moving from fourth in 2010 to eleventh in this year's index -- but these gains have been tempered by setbacks. A peaceful referendum on a new constitution in 2013 brought with it relief from tough European sanctions, but longtime leader Robert Mugabe, who has held power for nearly three decades, was once again accused by Western observers of staging fraudulent elections in July 2013 to return himself and his Zanu-PF party to power. (Mugabe won with 61 percent of the vote, in an election that the African Union declared "free and peaceful.") On the economic front, even as the country was touted in October for achieving the greatest reduction in poverty among 35 African countries over ten years, poverty still remains dire, with the U.N. estimating that 2.2 million Zimbabweans will require food assistance this year alone.

Above, women hang clothes to dry in Mbare, Aug. 4, 2013.

Alexander Joe/AFP/Getty Images

http://12.%20Guinea,%20102.7%20%20%20%20%20%20%20%20Thanks%20to%20decades%20of%20political%20turmoil,%20Guinea%20--%20a%20mineral-rich%20West%20African%20country%20--%20remains%20among%20the%20continent's%20poorest,%20with%20over%20half%20of%20the%20population%20living%20below%20the%20poverty%20line.%202013%20saw%20an%20increase%20in%20political%20violence%20as%20ethnic%20clashes%20in%20the%20country's%20south%20last%20July%20left%20more%20than%2050%20people%20dead.%20Meanwhile,%20the%20government%20cut%20its%20annual%20growth%20forecast%20after%20the%20political%20violence%20deterred%20investment%20in%20the%20country's%20mining%20sector.%20The%20elections,%20which%20were%20eventually%20held%20in%20September%202013,%20were%20the%20final%20step%20in%20returning%20Guinea%20to%20civilian%20rule%20after%20the%20country's%202008%20coup,%20which%20prompted%20the%20European%20Union%20to%20lift%20its%20suspension%20of%20aid%20funding%20to%20the%20country%20January%202014.%20However,%20the%20opposition%20and%20international%20observers%20alike%20noted%20irregularities%20in%20the%20electoral%20process,%20claiming%20fraud.%20%20%20%20%20%20Above,%20young%20protesters%20pose%20as%20they%20clash%20with%20the%20police%20on%20Sept.%2023,%202013%20in%20Conakry.%20%20%20%20%20%20Cellou%20Binani/AFP/Getty%20Images

12. Guinea, 102.7

Thanks to decades of political turmoil, Guinea -- a mineral-rich West African country -- remains among the continent's poorest, with over half of the population living below the poverty line. 2013 saw an increase in political violence as ethnic clashes in the country's south last July left more than 50 people dead. Meanwhile, the government cut its annual growth forecast after the political violence deterred investment in the country's mining sector. The elections, which were eventually held in September 2013, were the final step in returning Guinea to civilian rule after the country's 2008 coup, which prompted the European Union to lift its suspension of aid funding to the country January 2014. However, the opposition and international observers alike noted irregularities in the electoral process, claiming fraud.

Above, young protesters pose as they clash with the police on Sept. 23, 2013 in Conakry.

Cellou Binani/AFP/Getty Images

13. Iraq, 102.2

The situation in Iraq continued to deteriorate in 2013, which saw the country slide even closer toward full-blown sectarian war between Sunni insurgents and supporters of Prime Minister Nouri al-Malaki's Shiite-led government. The number of civilian casualties more than doubled from the previous year, with deadly bombings and armed attacks becoming almost daily occurrences. Though recent events in Iraq weren't factored into this year's rankings, 2013 served as a prelude to what appears likely to be an even more violent 2014: in January, two key cities in Sunni-dominated Anbar province, Ramadi and Fallujah, fell to the militant group the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS), and in June, over the span of a few days, ISIS managed to overrun Mosul, Iraq's second largest city.

Above, an Iraqi woman walks across debris following an explosion at a bus center on Oct. 27, 2013, in the Mashtal district of Baghdad.

Sabah Arar/AFP/Getty Images

http://14.%20Ivory%20Coast,%20101.7%20%20%20%20%20%20%20%20Ivory%20Coast,%20once%20a%20stable%20West%20African%20nation,%20has%20been%20suffering%20from%20bouts%20of%20political%20violence%20and%20ethnic%20tension%20since%20a%201999%20coup%20toppled%20the%20government.%20Still%20recovering%20from%20the%20conflict%20that%20pitted%20the%20rebel-held%20north%20--%20a%20region%20that%20is%20primarily%20Muslim%20--%20against%20the%20government-controlled%20south,%20the%20country%20continued%20to%20grapple%20with%20turmoil%20in%202013.%20An%20Amnesty%20International%20report%20released%20in%20February%20said%20soldiers%20and%20militias%20continued%20to%20persecute%20supporters%20of%20the%20former%20President%20Laurent%20Gbagbo,%20who%20is%20currently%20awaiting%20trial%20at%20the%20International%20Criminal%20Court%20for%20alleged%20war%20crimes%20in%20the%20wake%20of%20his%20electoral%20defeat%20in%202010.%20Underscoring%20the%20country's%20volatility,%20the%20United%20Nations%20has%20prevented%20the%20repatriation%20of%20tens%20of%20thousands%20of%20those%20displaced%20by%20the%20violence,%20who%20currently%20reside%20across%20the%20border%20in%20neighboring%20Liberia,%20deeming%20the%20situation%20on%20the%20ground%20too%20uncertain.%20%20%20%20%20%20Above,%20Ivorian%20Dozo%20hunters%20ride%20a%20motorbike%20as%20they%20arrive%20in%20Kani%20for%20a%20meeting%20dedicated%20to%20human%20rights,%20on%20Sept.%2027,%202013.%20%20%20%20%20%20Sia%20Kambou/AFP/Getty%20Images

14. Ivory Coast, 101.7

Ivory Coast, once a stable West African nation, has been suffering from bouts of political violence and ethnic tension since a 1999 coup toppled the government. Still recovering from the conflict that pitted the rebel-held north -- a region that is primarily Muslim -- against the government-controlled south, the country continued to grapple with turmoil in 2013. An Amnesty International report released in February said soldiers and militias continued to persecute supporters of the former President Laurent Gbagbo, who is currently awaiting trial at the International Criminal Court for alleged war crimes in the wake of his electoral defeat in 2010. Underscoring the country's volatility, the United Nations has prevented the repatriation of tens of thousands of those displaced by the violence, who currently reside across the border in neighboring Liberia, deeming the situation on the ground too uncertain.

Above, Ivorian Dozo hunters ride a motorbike as they arrive in Kani for a meeting dedicated to human rights, on Sept. 27, 2013.

Sia Kambou/AFP/Getty Images

http://15.%20Syria,%20101.6%20%20%20%20%20%20%20%20As%20the%20war%20in%20Syria%20stretches%20into%20its%20third%20year%20with%20no%20end%20in%20sight,%20the%20country%20has%20continued%20its%20rapid%20ascent%20among%20the%20ranks%20of%20the%20world's%20most%20fragile%20states,%20jumping%20six%20spots%20in%20the%20index.%20Chaotic%20fighting%20between%20the%20various%20rebel%20groups%20and%20pro-government%20forces%20has%20left%20the%20estimated%20death%20toll%20at%20162,000%20and%20resulted%20in%20the%20displacement%20of%20almost%20half%20of%20the%20country's%20population.%20President%20Bashar%20al-Assad's%20forces%20were%20accused%20of%20using%20chemical%20weapons%20against%20his%20people%20in%20an%20Aug.%2021,%202013%20attack%20in%20the%20Damascus%20countryside,%20in%20addition%20to%20claims%20that%20his%20regime%20had%20conducted%20mass%20executions%20and%20unlawful%20detentions.%20The%20ongoing%20fighting%20has%20contributed%20to%20greater%20regional%20destabilization,%20as%20refugees%20continue%20to%20flood%20into%20neighboring%20countries,%20such%20as%20Lebanon,%20Turkey,%20Jordan,%20and%20Iraq.%20As%20of%20November%202013,%202.23%20million%20Syrians%20were%20either%20registered%20or%20were%20pending%20registration%20as%20refugees%20with%20the%20U.N.%20refugee%20agency,%20the%20office%20of%20the%20United%20Nations%20High%20Commissioner%20for%20Refugees%20(UNHCR).%20%20%20%20%20%20Above,%20a%20Syrian%20woman%20stands%20inside%20a%20damaged%20building%20following%20reported%20airstrikes%20by%20Syrian%20government%20forces%20with%20barrel%20bombs,%20in%20the%20northern%20city%20of%20Aleppo,%20on%20May%2026.%20%20%20%20%20%20Baraa%20Al-Halabi/AFP/Getty%20Images

15. Syria, 101.6

As the war in Syria stretches into its third year with no end in sight, the country has continued its rapid ascent among the ranks of the world's most fragile states, jumping six spots in the index. Chaotic fighting between the various rebel groups and pro-government forces has left the estimated death toll at 162,000 and resulted in the displacement of almost half of the country's population. President Bashar al-Assad's forces were accused of using chemical weapons against his people in an Aug. 21, 2013 attack in the Damascus countryside, in addition to claims that his regime had conducted mass executions and unlawful detentions. The ongoing fighting has contributed to greater regional destabilization, as refugees continue to flood into neighboring countries, such as Lebanon, Turkey, Jordan, and Iraq. As of November 2013, 2.23 million Syrians were either registered or were pending registration as refugees with the U.N. refugee agency, the office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

Above, a Syrian woman stands inside a damaged building following reported airstrikes by Syrian government forces with barrel bombs, in the northern city of Aleppo, on May 26.

Baraa Al-Halabi/AFP/Getty Images

http://16.%20Guinea%20Bissau,%20100.6%20%20%20%20%20%20%20%20This%20small%20African%20nation%20--%20one%20of%20the%20continent's%20poorest%20--%20remains%20high%20on%20the%20list%20of%20fragile%20states%20for%20its%20political%20instability,%20corruption,%20and%20extreme%20poverty%20--%20all%20factors%20that%20have%20contributed%20to%20its%20distinction%20as%20the%20world's%20first%20"narco-state."%20Located%20on%20Africa's%20western%20coast,%20Guinea%20Bissau%20serves%20as%20a%20major%20transit%20point%20for%20the%20trafficking%20of%20cocaine%20to%20Europe%20from%20the%20Americas.%20As%20a%20result,%20the%20country%20of%20only%201.4%20million%20is%20increasingly%20finding%20itself%20at%20the%20center%20of%20violence%20and%20organized%20crime.%20%20%20%20%20%20Above,%20Guinea%20Bissau%20soldiers%20stand%20next%20to%20corpses%20after%20gunmen%20raided%20an%20army%20barracks%20in%20Bissau,%20sparking%20a%20firefight%20that%20left%20at%20least%20seven%20people%20dead,%20on%20Oct.%2021,%202012.%20%20%20%20%20%20STR/AFP/Getty%20Images

16. Guinea Bissau, 100.6

This small African nation -- one of the continent's poorest -- remains high on the list of fragile states for its political instability, corruption, and extreme poverty -- all factors that have contributed to its distinction as the world's first "narco-state." Located on Africa's western coast, Guinea Bissau serves as a major transit point for the trafficking of cocaine to Europe from the Americas. As a result, the country of only 1.4 million is increasingly finding itself at the center of violence and organized crime.

Above, Guinea Bissau soldiers stand next to corpses after gunmen raided an army barracks in Bissau, sparking a firefight that left at least seven people dead, on Oct. 21, 2012.

STR/AFP/Getty Images

http://17.%20Nigeria,%2099.7%20%20%20%20%20%20%20%20%20In%202014,%20Nigeria%20--%20the%20most%20populous%20country%20in%20Africa%20with%20a%20population%20of%20approximately%20177%20million%20--%20surpassed%20South%20Africa%20to%20become%20the%20continent's%20largest%20economy.%20However,%20despite%20these%20gains,%20Nigeria%20continues%20to%20reel%20from%20the%20Islamist%20insurgency%20in%20its%20northeast,%20where%20President%20Goodluck%20Jonathan%20has%20declared%20a%20state%20of%20emergency.%20Boko%20Haram,%20the%20militant%20organization%20behind%20the%20unrest,%20may%20be%20dominating%20global%20headlines%20in%202014%20with%20the%20kidnapping%20of%20over%20200%20young%20schoolgirls,%20but%20the%20group%20was%20destabilizing%20Nigeria%20well%20before%20#BringBackOurGirls.%20During%20one%20particularly%20grisly%20Boko%20Haram%20attack%20on%20a%20secondary%20school%20in%20Yobe%20state%20in%20July%202013,%2042%20people%20were%20killed,%20most%20of%20them%20students.%20%20%20%20%20%20Above,%20burnt%20buses%20lie%20at%20a%20bus%20station%20in%20Kano,%20on%20Mar.%2019,%202013,%20after%20a%20suicide%20bombing%20there%20killed%20at%20least%2022%20people%20and%20injured%2065%20others.%20%20%20%20%20%20Aminu%20Abubakar/AFP/Getty%20Image

17. Nigeria, 99.7

In 2014, Nigeria -- the most populous country in Africa with a population of approximately 177 million -- surpassed South Africa to become the continent's largest economy. However, despite these gains, Nigeria continues to reel from the Islamist insurgency in its northeast, where President Goodluck Jonathan has declared a state of emergency. Boko Haram, the militant organization behind the unrest, may be dominating global headlines in 2014 with the kidnapping of over 200 young schoolgirls, but the group was destabilizing Nigeria well before #BringBackOurGirls. During one particularly grisly Boko Haram attack on a secondary school in Yobe state in July 2013, 42 people were killed, most of them students.

Above, burnt buses lie at a bus station in Kano, on Mar. 19, 2013, after a suicide bombing there killed at least 22 people and injured 65 others.

Aminu Abubakar/AFP/Getty Image

http://18.%20Kenya,%2099.0%20%20%20%20%20%20%20%20%20Kenya's%202013%20elections,%20which%20put%20President%20Uhuru%20Kenyatta%20in%20office,%20defied%20the%20expectations%20of%20those%20who'd%20feared%20they%20might%20lead%20to%20widespread%20bloodshed,%20leading%20instead%20to%20what%20Human%20Rights%20Watch%20called%20"pockets%20of%20violence."%20But%20the%20country%20saw%20a%20devastating%20terrorism%20attack%20in%202013%20when,%20in%20September,%20al-Shabab%20gunmen%20organized%20a%20brutal%2080-hour%20assault%20on%20Nairobi's%20Westgate%20Mall.%20The%20attack%20that%20left%2067%20dead%20was,%20al-Shabab%20said,%20intended%20to%20punish%20Kenya%20for%20intervening%20militarily%20in%20Somalia.%20Nairobi,%20which%20had%20previously%20been%20considered%20among%20the%20most%20"foreigner%20friendly"%20cities%20in%20Africa,%20saw%20a%20heightened%20state%20of%20security%20and%20a%20government%20crackdown%20on%20Somali%20refugees.%20%20%20%20%20%20Above,%20mourners%20observe%20the%20cremation%20of%20Sridhar%20Natarajan,%20who%20was%20killed%20at%20the%20Westgate%20Mall%20attack%20in%20Nairobi,%20on%20Sept.%2026,%202013.%20%20%20%20%20%20Uriel%20Sinai/Getty%20Images

18. Kenya, 99.0

Kenya's 2013 elections, which put President Uhuru Kenyatta in office, defied the expectations of those who'd feared they might lead to widespread bloodshed, leading instead to what Human Rights Watch called "pockets of violence." But the country saw a devastating terrorism attack in 2013 when, in September, al-Shabab gunmen organized a brutal 80-hour assault on Nairobi's Westgate Mall. The attack that left 67 dead was, al-Shabab said, intended to punish Kenya for intervening militarily in Somalia. Nairobi, which had previously been considered among the most "foreigner friendly" cities in Africa, saw a heightened state of security and a government crackdown on Somali refugees.

Above, mourners observe the cremation of Sridhar Natarajan, who was killed at the Westgate Mall attack in Nairobi, on Sept. 26, 2013.

Uriel Sinai/Getty Images

http://19.%20Ethiopia,%2097.9%20%20%20%20%20%20%20%20Although%20Ethiopia%20--%20Africa's%20second-largest%20country%20--%20has%20seen%20rapid%20economic%20growth%20over%20the%20past%20decade,%20it%20still%20ranks%20among%20the%20region's%20poorest%20due%20to%20its%20long%20history%20of%20drought,%20famine,%20and%20war.%20Some%20observers%20had%20hoped%20the%20death%20of%20strongman%20Meles%20Zenawi%20--%20who%20had%20been%20in%20power%20for%20over%20two%20decades%20--%20in%202012%20might%20lead%20to%20increasing%20freedoms%20in%20Ethiopia,%20which%20places%20severe%20restrictions%20on%20everything%20from%20civil%20society%20to%20independent%20media.%20%20%20%20%20%20Above,%20Ethiopian%20immigrants%20returning%20from%20Saudi%20Arabia%20arrive%20at%20Addis%20Ababa's%20Bole%20International%20Airport,%20on%20Dec.%2010,%202013.%20%20%20%20%20%20Jenny%20Vaughan/AFP/Getty%20Images

19. Ethiopia, 97.9

Although Ethiopia -- Africa's second-largest country -- has seen rapid economic growth over the past decade, it still ranks among the region's poorest due to its long history of drought, famine, and war. Some observers had hoped the death of strongman Meles Zenawi -- who had been in power for over two decades -- in 2012 might lead to increasing freedoms in Ethiopia, which places severe restrictions on everything from civil society to independent media.

Above, Ethiopian immigrants returning from Saudi Arabia arrive at Addis Ababa's Bole International Airport, on Dec. 10, 2013.

Jenny Vaughan/AFP/Getty Images

19. Niger, 97.9

Niger, located on the Western edge of the Sahara desert, is one of the world's poorest countries. In recent years, the country's volatile neighbors have contributed to political unrest within its borders: Tuareg rebels, separatists from the traditionally nomadic ethnic group, continue to threaten stability in northern Mali, to the country's east, and Boko Haram is wreaking havoc along its southern edge. Niger is now a hub for anti-terror interventions in Africa, allying with the United States and France in their fight against al Qaeda affiliates on the continent. In 2013, the United States sent 100 America troops to the country in order to open a new drone base in the region.

Above, residents watch water levels rise on Sept. 5, 2013, after floods in Niamey.

Boureima Hama/AFP/Getty Images

21. Burundi, 97.1

Over 60 percent of this landlocked African nation lives below the national poverty line. After the 2001 culmination of a 12-year civil war that pitted ethnic Hutus against the Tutsi army, Burundi has achieved a measure of political stability during the past decade. However, bursts of state violence continue: In March 2013, police fired into a crowd of religious worshippers, killing nine (police allege that the protesters were armed, though Human Rights Watch uncovered to evidence to support their claim). Journalists have been attacked, jailed, and intimidated; and only a fraction of the dozens of cases of politically motivated killings from 2010 to 2012 have been meaningfully pursued, according to Human Rights Watch. As the BBC reports, tensions are reemerging in 2014 as President Pierre Nkurunziza attempts to change the constitution in favor of extending his rule into a third term, a move, the opposition warns, that could shake the country's already fragile ethnic balance.

Above, men paddle on Lake Tanganyika on July 9, 2013.

Junior D. Kannah/AFP/Getty Images

http://22.%20Uganda,%2096.0%20%20%20%20%20%20%20%20In%202013,%20Uganda%20remained%20unmoved%20in%20the%20rankings.%20Despite%20economic%20growth,%20the%20central%20African%20country%20suffers%20from%20the%20highest%20rate%20of%20youth%20unemployment%20in%20the%20continent,%20epitomizing%20a%20trend%20in%20much%20of%20Africa%20of%20GDP%20growth%20failing%20to%20generate%20jobs.%20The%20government,%20plagued%20by%20widespread%20corruption,%20cracked%20down%20on%20political%20dissent,%20arresting%20opposition%20politicians%20on%20charges%20of%20organizing%20an%20unlawful%20assembly%20and%20belonging%20to%20an%20"unlawful%20society."%20In%202014,%20the%20country%20set%20international%20headlines%20ablaze%20when%20its%20president%20of%2027%20years,%20Yoweri%20Museveni,%20signed%20into%20law%20a%20draconian%20bill%20banning%20same-sex%20practices,%20further%20tarnishing%20the%20country's%20poor%20human%20rights%20record,%20which%20includes%20restrictions%20on%20free%20speech%20and%20civil%20society,%20and%20extending%20the%20reach%20of%20an%20anti-gay%20movement%20that%20has%20swept%20through%20much%20of%20Africa%20in%20recent%20years.%20%20%20%20%20%20Above,%20members%20of%20the%20Armed%20Forces%20of%20the%20Democratic%20Republic%20of%20Congo%20(FARDC)%20pose%20for%20a%20picture%20during%20a%20visit%20by%20the%20chief%20of%20Defense%20Forces%20of%20Uganda%20(UPDF)%20in%20Beni%20on%20May%207.%20%20%20%20%20%20Stringer/AFP/Getty%20Images

22. Uganda, 96.0

In 2013, Uganda remained unmoved in the rankings. Despite economic growth, the central African country suffers from the highest rate of youth unemployment in the continent, epitomizing a trend in much of Africa of GDP growth failing to generate jobs. The government, plagued by widespread corruption, cracked down on political dissent, arresting opposition politicians on charges of organizing an unlawful assembly and belonging to an "unlawful society." In 2014, the country set international headlines ablaze when its president of 27 years, Yoweri Museveni, signed into law a draconian bill banning same-sex practices, further tarnishing the country's poor human rights record, which includes restrictions on free speech and civil society, and extending the reach of an anti-gay movement that has swept through much of Africa in recent years.

Above, members of the Armed Forces of the Democratic Republic of Congo (FARDC) pose for a picture during a visit by the chief of Defense Forces of Uganda (UPDF) in Beni on May 7.

Stringer/AFP/Getty Images

http://23.%20Eritrea,%2095.5%20%20%20%20%20%20%20%20Despite%20the%20poverty%20and%20periods%20of%20drought%20that%20have%20left%20residents%20struggling%20for%20food%20and%20water,%20it%20is%20brutal%20repression%20perpetrated%20by%20the%20Eritrean%20government%20that%20makes%20life%20in%20this%20secretive%20East%20African%20nation%20impossible%20for%20so%20many.%20In%20a%20November%202013%20statement%20on%20human%20rights%20in%20the%20country,%20Sheila%20B.%20Keetharuth,%20special%20rapporteur%20for%20the%20United%20Nations,%20noted%20that%20government%20abuses%20--%20including%20an%20indeterminate%20period%20of%20forced%20national%20service%20--%20is%20what%20drives%20so%20many%20Eritreans%20to%20undertake%20life-threatening%20journeys%20across%20the%20Sahara%20desert%20and%20Mediterranean%20Sea%20in%20their%20attempts%20to%20flee%20the%20country.%20%20%20%20%20%20Above,%20Eritrean%20refugees%20sleep%20on%20a%20sidewalk%20while%20waiting%20for%20help%20from%20the%20UNHCR%20in%20Sanaa,%20Yemen%20on%20May%203.%20%20%20%20%20%20EPA/Yahya%20Ahrab

23. Eritrea, 95.5

Despite the poverty and periods of drought that have left residents struggling for food and water, it is brutal repression perpetrated by the Eritrean government that makes life in this secretive East African nation impossible for so many. In a November 2013 statement on human rights in the country, Sheila B. Keetharuth, special rapporteur for the United Nations, noted that government abuses -- including an indeterminate period of forced national service -- is what drives so many Eritreans to undertake life-threatening journeys across the Sahara desert and Mediterranean Sea in their attempts to flee the country.

Above, Eritrean refugees sleep on a sidewalk while waiting for help from the UNHCR in Sanaa, Yemen on May 3.

EPA/Yahya Ahrab

http://24.%20Liberia,%2094.3%20%20%20%20%20%20%20%20Liberia's%20nearly%2015-year-long%20civil%20war%20ended%20in%202003%20and%20though%20things%20have%20been%20relatively%20peaceful,%20the%20West%20African%20country%20is%20still%20struggling%20to%20recover%20and%20rebuild.%20According%20to%20a%20World%20Bank%20report%20from%202011%20(the%20most%20recent%20data%20available),%20only%20a%20mere%200.58%20percent%20of%20residents%20in%20Monrovia,%20the%20nation's%20capital,%20had%20access%20to%20electricity.%20Corruption%20in%20Liberia%20is%20rife%20as%20for%20example,%20according%20to%20Human%20Rights%20Watch,%20police%20regularly%20engage%20in%20armed%20robbery%20while%20on%20patrol.%20President%20Ellen%20Johnson%20Sirleaf%20has%20made%20strides%20at%20reducing%20graft%20and%20improving%20infrastructure,%20but%20her%20country%20has%20a%20long%20way%20to%20go.%20%20%20%20%20%20Above,%20people%20stand%20at%20the%20entrance%20of%20a%20house%20surrounded%20by%20floods%20caused%20by%20torrential%20rain%20in%20Monrovia,%20on%20July%208,%202013.%20%20%20%20%20%20STR/AFP/Getty%20Images

24. Liberia, 94.3

Liberia's nearly 15-year-long civil war ended in 2003 and though things have been relatively peaceful, the West African country is still struggling to recover and rebuild. According to a World Bank report from 2011 (the most recent data available), only a mere 0.58 percent of residents in Monrovia, the nation's capital, had access to electricity. Corruption in Liberia is rife as for example, according to Human Rights Watch, police regularly engage in armed robbery while on patrol. President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf has made strides at reducing graft and improving infrastructure, but her country has a long way to go.

Above, people stand at the entrance of a house surrounded by floods caused by torrential rain in Monrovia, on July 8, 2013.

STR/AFP/Getty Images

http://24.%20Myanmar,%2094.3%20%20%20%20%20%20%20%20Since%202011,%20Myanmar%20has%20been%20emerging%20from%20%20decades%20of%20isolation%20under%20repressive%20military%20rule.%20Human%20rights%20and%20democracy%20%20are%20improving;%20in%202013,%20dozens%20of%20political%20prisoners%20were%20released%20in%20a%20series%20%20of%20government%20amnesties.%20Still,%20the%20country%20has%20yet%20to%20tackle%20some%20of%20its%20%20long-rooted%20problems,%20perhaps%20the%20direst%20of%20which%20is%20the%20continuing%20repression%20%20of%20Myanmar's%201.3%20million-strong%20Rohingya%20Muslim%20population.%20Long%20the%20target%20of%20%20discrimination,%20this%20large%20minority%20has%20in%20recent%20years%20been%20subjected%20to%20violent%20attacks%20in%20the%20%20majority-Buddhist%20country.%20Some,%20fleeing%20the%20violence,%20have%20moved%20into%20%20government-provided%20camps%20that%20human%20rights%20groups%20claim%20lack%20access%20to%20basic%20%20services%20and%20are%20essentially%20internment%20%20camps%20set%20up%20by%20a%20state%20that%20still%20denies%20the%20ethnic%20Rohingya%20%20citizenship.%20Burmese%20pro-democracy%20figure%20and%20Nobel%20Peace%20Prize%20winner%20Aung%20San%20%20Suu%20Kyi%20--%20who%20announced%20in%20Dec.%202013%20her%20party's%20intention%20to%20participate%20in%20upcoming%20%202015%20elections%20--%20has%20faced%20criticism%20for%20what%20is%20believed%20to%20be%20her%20"politically%20%20calculated%20silence"%20on%20the%20country's%20dire%20human%20rights%20situation.%20Abuses%20of%20other%20%20minority%20groups%20continue%20and%20in%202013%20there%20were%20a%20staggering%20estimated%20400,000%20%20internally%20displaced%20people%20in%20Myanmar.%20%20%20%20%20%20Above,%20a%20laborer%20stacks%20recycled%20oil%20drums%20on%20the%20banks%20of%20the%20Irrawaddy%20River%20in%20Yangon%20on%20Dec.%2016,%202013.%20%20%20%20%20%20Lauren%20DeCicca/Getty%20Images

24. Myanmar, 94.3

Since 2011, Myanmar has been emerging from decades of isolation under repressive military rule. Human rights and democracy are improving; in 2013, dozens of political prisoners were released in a series of government amnesties. Still, the country has yet to tackle some of its long-rooted problems, perhaps the direst of which is the continuing repression of Myanmar's 1.3 million-strong Rohingya Muslim population. Long the target of discrimination, this large minority has in recent years been subjected to violent attacks in the majority-Buddhist country. Some, fleeing the violence, have moved into government-provided camps that human rights groups claim lack access to basic services and are essentially internment camps set up by a state that still denies the ethnic Rohingya citizenship. Burmese pro-democracy figure and Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi -- who announced in Dec. 2013 her party's intention to participate in upcoming 2015 elections -- has faced criticism for what is believed to be her "politically calculated silence" on the country's dire human rights situation. Abuses of other minority groups continue and in 2013 there were a staggering estimated 400,000 internally displaced people in Myanmar.

Above, a laborer stacks recycled oil drums on the banks of the Irrawaddy River in Yangon on Dec. 16, 2013.

Lauren DeCicca/Getty Images

http://26.%20North%20Korea,%2094.0%20%20%20%20%20%20%20%20While%20an%20accurate%20picture%20of%20life%20in%20North%20Korea%20is%20hard%20to%20come%20by,%20there%20is%20little%20doubt%20the%20hermit%20kingdom%20remains%20perhaps%20the%20most%20repressive%20country%20in%20the%20world.%20North%20Korea%20has%20actually%20improved%20in%20the%20rankings%20over%20the%20past%20decade%20(in%202005%20for%20example%20it%20was%20number%2015%20on%20the%20list).%20Still,%20a%20scathing%20United%20Nations%20report%20released%20this%20year%20accused%20the%20government%20of%20dictator%20Kim%20Jong%20Un%20of%20crimes%20against%20humanity.%20The%20regime,%20which%20faces%20tough%20international%20sanctions%20as%20a%20result%20of%20its%20nuclear%20program,%20is%20charged%20in%20the%20report%20with%20crimes%20against%20its%20own%20citizens%20that%20include%20extrajudicial%20killings,%20forced%20labor,%20and%20starvation.%20"The%20gravity,%20scale%20and%20nature%20of%20these%20violations,"%20says%20the%20commission,%20"reveal%20a%20State%20that%20does%20not%20have%20any%20parallel%20in%20the%20contemporary%20world."%20%20%20%20%20%20Above,%20North%20Korean%20leader%20Kim%20Jong-Un%20and%20senior%20officials%20from%20the%20government%20and%20army%20pose%20before%20the%20statues%20of%20late%20leaders%20Kim%20Il-Sung%20and%20Kim%20Jong-Il%20at%20Mangyongdae%20Revolutionary%20School%20in%20Pyongyang%20on%20Feb.%2016,%202013.%20%20%20%20%20%20KNS/AFP/Getty%20Images

26. North Korea, 94.0

While an accurate picture of life in North Korea is hard to come by, there is little doubt the hermit kingdom remains perhaps the most repressive country in the world. North Korea has actually improved in the rankings over the past decade (in 2005 for example it was number 15 on the list). Still, a scathing United Nations report released this year accused the government of dictator Kim Jong Un of crimes against humanity. The regime, which faces tough international sanctions as a result of its nuclear program, is charged in the report with crimes against its own citizens that include extrajudicial killings, forced labor, and starvation. "The gravity, scale and nature of these violations," says the commission, "reveal a State that does not have any parallel in the contemporary world."

Above, North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un and senior officials from the government and army pose before the statues of late leaders Kim Il-Sung and Kim Jong-Il at Mangyongdae Revolutionary School in Pyongyang on Feb. 16, 2013.

KNS/AFP/Getty Images

http://27.%20Cameroon,%2093.1%20%20%20%20%20%20%20%20%20President%20Paul%20Biya's%20repressive%20administration%20and%20high%20levels%20of%20corruption%20have%20long%20stymied%20Cameroon's%20development.%20Yet%20in%20recent%20years,%20the%20country%20has%20been%20plagued%20by%20a%20newer%20threat%20along%20its%20North%20Western%20border,%20Nigeria's%20Boko%20Haram%20militants.%20The%20country's%20ranking%20is%20partially%20informed%20by%20an%20expanded%20security%20presence%20--%20the%20government%20has%20reacted%20to%20the%20Boko%20Haram%20threat%20by%20accepting%20U.S.%20military%20aid%20and%20training%20Special%20Forces%20to%20combat%20the%20Islamic%20insurgents.%20%20%20%20%20%20Above,%20a%20Cameroonian%20soldier%20holds%20an%20assault%20rifle%20as%20Cameroonian%20military%20escort%20French%20troops%20driving%20from%20Souala%20to%20the%20Central%20African%20Republic%20on%20Dec.%204,%202013.%20%20%20%20%20%20Fred%20Dufour/AFP/Getty%20Images

27. Cameroon, 93.1

President Paul Biya's repressive administration and high levels of corruption have long stymied Cameroon's development. Yet in recent years, the country has been plagued by a newer threat along its North Western border, Nigeria's Boko Haram militants. The country's ranking is partially informed by an expanded security presence -- the government has reacted to the Boko Haram threat by accepting U.S. military aid and training Special Forces to combat the Islamic insurgents.

Above, a Cameroonian soldier holds an assault rifle as Cameroonian military escort French troops driving from Souala to the Central African Republic on Dec. 4, 2013.

Fred Dufour/AFP/Getty Images

28. Mauritania, 93.0

The small country bridging North and West Africa continues to suffer a host of difficulties, including the presence of al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, as well as grave food shortages that have been exacerbated by regional conflict and the subsequent inflow of refugees. Meanwhile the first parliamentary elections since 2009 were boycotted by most of the opposition. It was not all bad news though: In 2013, the government finally acknowledged Mauritania's problem with slavery and established a new government agency specifically to tackle this issue: "The National Solidarity Agency for the Fight Against the Vestiges of Slavery, for Integration, and for the Fight Against Poverty." According to the 2013 Global Slavery Index, the country of only 3.8 million "has the highest proportion of people in slavery in the world."

Pictured above is a view of the Mbere refugee camp in southern Mauritania on Jan. 18, 2013.

Mohamad Abeh/AFP/Getty Images

http://29.%20Bangladesh,%2092.8%20%20%20%20%20%20%20%20%20One%20of%20the%20most%20densely%20populated%20countries%20on%20earth,%20Bangladesh%20also%20ranks%20among%20the%20world's%20poorest.%20The%20garment%20industry,%20one%20of%20the%20country's%20few%20sources%20of%20jobs%20and%20export%20revenues,%20faced%20scrutiny%20for%20its%20labor%20practices%20after%20the%20collapse%20of%20the%20Rana%20Plaza%20garment%20factory%20in%20April%202013%20that%20killed%201,129%20workers.%20The%20country%20has%20also%20suffered%20from%20a%20years-long%20political%20standoff%20between%20the%20ruling%20Awami%20League%20and%20the%20opposition%20Bangladesh%20National%20Party%20(BNP).%20Prime%20Minister%20Sheikh%20Hasina's%20administration%20clamped%20down%20on%20opponents%20--%20arresting%20hundreds%20of%20activists%20and%20effectively%20placing%20BNP%20leader%20Khaleda%20Zia%20under%20house%20arrest%20--%20in%20the%20lead-up%20to%20the%20country's%20January%202014%20election.%20%20%20%20%20%20Above,%20Bangladeshi%20men%20stand%20near%20a%20fire%20on%20the%20streets%20of%20downtown%20Dhaka%20during%20a%20cold%20winter%20morning%20on%20Jan.%204.%20%20%20%20%20%20Roberto%20Schmidt/AFP/Getty%20Images

29. Bangladesh, 92.8

One of the most densely populated countries on earth, Bangladesh also ranks among the world's poorest. The garment industry, one of the country's few sources of jobs and export revenues, faced scrutiny for its labor practices after the collapse of the Rana Plaza garment factory in April 2013 that killed 1,129 workers. The country has also suffered from a years-long political standoff between the ruling Awami League and the opposition Bangladesh National Party (BNP). Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina's administration clamped down on opponents -- arresting hundreds of activists and effectively placing BNP leader Khaleda Zia under house arrest -- in the lead-up to the country's January 2014 election.

Above, Bangladeshi men stand near a fire on the streets of downtown Dhaka during a cold winter morning on Jan. 4.

Roberto Schmidt/AFP/Getty Images

http://30.%20Sri%20Lanka,%2092.6%20%20%20%20%20%20%20%20Years%20after%20a%20government%20offensive%20ended%20the%20Tamil%20Tiger%20insurgency,%20Sri%20Lanka%20is%20still%20coping%20with%20the%20aftermath%20of%20its%20decades-long%20civil%20war.%20International%20observers%20such%20as%20Human%20Rights%20Watch%20have%20accused%20security%20forces%20of%20resorting%20to%20torture%20and%20rape%20in%20its%20violent%20repression%20of%20dissent.%20Recognizing%20the%20ongoing%20human%20rights%20situation,%20the%20United%20Nations%20approved%20a%20resolution%20this%20year%20establishing%20an%20independent%20investigation%20into%20possible%20war%20crimes%20committed%20by%20both%20sides%20in%20the%20conflict's%20final%20stages,%20when%20as%20many%20as%2040,000%20people%20were%20killed.%20%20%20%20%20%20Above,%20Sri%20Lankan%20children%20hold%20lanterns%20in%20memory%20of%20fallen%20soldiers%20during%20National%20War%20Hero's%20Day%20in%20Colombo%20on%20May%2019.%20%20%20%20%20%20Lakruwan%20Wanniarachchi/AFP/Getty%20Image

30. Sri Lanka, 92.6

Years after a government offensive ended the Tamil Tiger insurgency, Sri Lanka is still coping with the aftermath of its decades-long civil war. International observers such as Human Rights Watch have accused security forces of resorting to torture and rape in its violent repression of dissent. Recognizing the ongoing human rights situation, the United Nations approved a resolution this year establishing an independent investigation into possible war crimes committed by both sides in the conflict's final stages, when as many as 40,000 people were killed.

Above, Sri Lankan children hold lanterns in memory of fallen soldiers during National War Hero's Day in Colombo on May 19.

Lakruwan Wanniarachchi/AFP/Getty Image

http://31.%20Egypt,%2091.0%20%20%20%20%20%20%20%20The%20July%202013%20ouster%20of%20President%20Mohamed%20Morsi%20sparked%20nationwide%20protests%20and%20a%20government%20crackdown%20that%20resulted%20in%20the%20deaths%20of%20more%20than%201,000%20Islamists%20and%20the%20imprisonment%20of%20at%20least%2016,000.%20New%20laws%20banning%20Muslim%20Brotherhood%20activities%20and%20limiting%20public%20organization%20have%20prompted%20commentators%20to%20deem%20the%20current%20government%20to%20be%20"worse%20than%20Mubarak."%20But%20it%20was%20the%20struggling%20economy%20rather%20than%20political%20dissent%20that%20was%20at%20the%20forefront%20of%20voters'%20minds%20as%20they%20took%20to%20the%20polls%20in%20underwhelming%20numbers%20to%20elect%20former%20army%20chief%20and%20strongman%20Abdel%20Fattah%20al-Sisi%20as%20president.%20%20%20%20%20%20Above,%20Egyptians%20salute%20army%20tanks%20on%20a%20street%20leading%20up%20to%20Cairo%20University%20on%20July%203,%202013.%20%20%20%20%20%20Khaled%20Desouki/AFP/Getty%20Images

31. Egypt, 91.0

The July 2013 ouster of President Mohamed Morsi sparked nationwide protests and a government crackdown that resulted in the deaths of more than 1,000 Islamists and the imprisonment of at least 16,000. New laws banning Muslim Brotherhood activities and limiting public organization have prompted commentators to deem the current government to be "worse than Mubarak." But it was the struggling economy rather than political dissent that was at the forefront of voters' minds as they took to the polls in underwhelming numbers to elect former army chief and strongman Abdel Fattah al-Sisi as president.

Above, Egyptians salute army tanks on a street leading up to Cairo University on July 3, 2013.

Khaled Desouki/AFP/Getty Images

http://31.%20Nepal,%2091.0%20%20%20%20%20%20%20%20Home%20to%20125%20different%20ethnic%20groups,%20this%20underdeveloped%20landlocked%20country%20has%20struggled%20to%20achieve%20stability%20after%20the%20end%20of%20its%20decade%20long%20civil%20war,%20waged%20between%20Maoists%20and%20the%20government,%20in%202006.%20While%20the%20country%20has%20made%20some%20progress%20on%20political%20reconciliation%20--%20elections%20in%20November%202013%20were%20deemed%20free%20and%20fair%20by%20international%20observers%20--%20the%20government%20has,%20according%20to%20rights%20groups,%20failed%20to%20hold%20perpetrators%20of%20crimes%20throughout%20the%20civil%20war%20to%20account.%20%20%20%20%20%20Above,%20Nepalese%20police%20officers%20stand%20alert%20as%20an%20unseen%20Chairman%20of%20the%20United%20Communist%20Party%20of%20Nepal%20(Maoist),%20Pushpa%20Kamal%20Dahal,%20visits%20residents%20door-to-door%20during%20an%20election%20campaign%20on%20the%20outskirts%20of%20Kathmandu%20on%20Oct.%2029,%202013.%20%20%20%20%20%20Prakash%20Mathema/AFP/Getty%20Images

31. Nepal, 91.0

Home to 125 different ethnic groups, this underdeveloped landlocked country has struggled to achieve stability after the end of its decade long civil war, waged between Maoists and the government, in 2006. While the country has made some progress on political reconciliation -- elections in November 2013 were deemed free and fair by international observers -- the government has, according to rights groups, failed to hold perpetrators of crimes throughout the civil war to account.

Above, Nepalese police officers stand alert as an unseen Chairman of the United Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist), Pushpa Kamal Dahal, visits residents door-to-door during an election campaign on the outskirts of Kathmandu on Oct. 29, 2013.

Prakash Mathema/AFP/Getty Images

http://31.%20East%20Timor,%2091.0%20%20%20%20%20%20%20%20In%202013,%20this%20small%20island%20nation%20ranked%20among%20the%20hungriest%20places%20in%20the%20world,%20as%20it%20continues%20to%20recover%20from%20infrastructural%20damage%20sustained%20during%2025%20years%20of%20Indonesian%20occupation%20and%20ensuing%20political%20violence.%20Largely%20dependent%20on%20its%20coffee%20industry%20--%20which%20represents%2090%20percent%20of%20non-oil%20exports%20and%20provides%20employment%20to%20a%20quarter%20of%20the%20population%20--%20East%20Timor's%20economy%20has%20suffered%20from%20a%20plunge%20in%20global%20coffee%20prices.%20%20%20%20%20%20%20Above,%20protesters%20hold%20up%20signs%20during%20anti-Australia%20protests%20on%20Dec.%206,%202013%20in%20Dili,%20East%20Timor.%20The%20protests%20were%20organized%20as%20a%20strong%20response%20to%20allegations%20that%20the%20East%20Timorese%20Cabinet%20room%20was%20bugged%20by%20Australian%20authorities%20during%20sensitive%20oil%20and%20gas%20negotiations.%20%20%20%20%20%20Pamela%20Martin/Getty%20Images

31. East Timor, 91.0

In 2013, this small island nation ranked among the hungriest places in the world, as it continues to recover from infrastructural damage sustained during 25 years of Indonesian occupation and ensuing political violence. Largely dependent on its coffee industry -- which represents 90 percent of non-oil exports and provides employment to a quarter of the population -- East Timor's economy has suffered from a plunge in global coffee prices.

Above, protesters hold up signs during anti-Australia protests on Dec. 6, 2013 in Dili, East Timor. The protests were organized as a strong response to allegations that the East Timorese Cabinet room was bugged by Australian authorities during sensitive oil and gas negotiations.

Pamela Martin/Getty Images

http://34.%20Rwanda,%2090.5%20%20%20%20%20%20%20%20President%20Paul%20Kagame,%20a%20divisive%20figure%20who%20has%20been%20lauded%20for%20overseeing%20economic%20growth%20and%20development%20in%20the%20wake%20of%20Rwanda's%20genocide.%20But%20he%20has%20also%20been%20condemned%20by%20human%20rights%20groups%20for%20his%20increasingly%20repressive%20rule.%20Recently%20hinting%20that%20he%20may%20try%20to%20defy%20constitutional%20limits%20and%20seek%20a%20third%20term%20in%20office,%20Kagame%20has%20also%20garnered%20international%20criticism%20for%20his%20military's%20previous%20support%20of%20Congo's%20M23%20rebels.%20The%20M23,%20who%20for%20years%20waged%20an%20insurgency%20against%20government%20forces%20in%20the%20Democratic%20Republic%20of%20Congo,%20agreed%20to%20a%20ceasefire%20in%20November%202013%20after%20being%20rooted%20by%20government%20and%20UN%20peacekeeping%20troops.%20%20%20%20%20%20Above,%20a%20Rwandan%20electoral%20official%20marks%20the%20number%20of%20ballots%20cast%20on%20Sept.%2016,%202013%20in%20Kigali%20after%20parliamentary%20elections.%20%20%20%20%20%20Tony%20Karumba/AFP/Getty%20Images

34. Rwanda, 90.5

President Paul Kagame, a divisive figure who has been lauded for overseeing economic growth and development in the wake of Rwanda's genocide. But he has also been condemned by human rights groups for his increasingly repressive rule. Recently hinting that he may try to defy constitutional limits and seek a third term in office, Kagame has also garnered international criticism for his military's previous support of Congo's M23 rebels. The M23, who for years waged an insurgency against government forces in the Democratic Republic of Congo, agreed to a ceasefire in November 2013 after being rooted by government and UN peacekeeping troops.

Above, a Rwandan electoral official marks the number of ballots cast on Sept. 16, 2013 in Kigali after parliamentary elections.

Tony Karumba/AFP/Getty Images

http://35.%20Sierra%20Leone,%2089.9%20%20%20%20%20%20%20%20Despite%20improved%20economic%20performance%20as%20a%20result%20of%20market%20reforms,%20this%20West%20African%20country%20--%20ravaged%20by%20a%20decade%20of%20civil%20war%20that%20ended%20in%202002%20--%20remains%20impoverished%20and%20highly%20aid%20dependent.%20According%20to%20the%20World%20Bank,%20Sierra%20Leone%20has%20the%20world's%20highest%20rate%20of%20maternal%20mortality%20as%20well%20as%20its%20lowest%20average%20life%20expectancy,%20at%20just%2045%20years%20of%20age.%20%20%20%20%20%20Above,%20a%20soldier%20patrols%20as%20election%20scrutineers%20count%20ballots%20at%20a%20polling%20station%20during%20the%20national%20presidential,%20parliamentary,%20and%20local%20elections%20in%20Sierra%20Leone%20on%20Nov.%2017,%202012.%20%20%20%20%20%20Issouf%20Sanogo/AFP/Getty%20Images

35. Sierra Leone, 89.9

Despite improved economic performance as a result of market reforms, this West African country -- ravaged by a decade of civil war that ended in 2002 -- remains impoverished and highly aid dependent. According to the World Bank, Sierra Leone has the world's highest rate of maternal mortality as well as its lowest average life expectancy, at just 45 years of age.

Above, a soldier patrols as election scrutineers count ballots at a polling station during the national presidential, parliamentary, and local elections in Sierra Leone on Nov. 17, 2012.

Issouf Sanogo/AFP/Getty Images

http://36.%20Mali,%2089.8%20%20%20%20%20%20%20%20Mali%20struggled%20to%20maintain%20the%20fragile%20peace%20that%20was%20established%20in%20the%20wake%20of%20France's%20military%20intervention%20against%20Islamist%20insurgents%20in%20early%202013%20--%20an%20alliance%20of%20Tuareg%20rebels%20and%20Islamist%20militants%20that%20had%20taken%20control%20of%20much%20of%20the%20country's%20north.%20%20%20%20%20%20Above,%20Malian%20soldiers%20patrol%20in%20Kidal,%20northern%20Mali,%20on%20July%2027,%202013.%20%20%20%20%20%20Kenzo%20Tribouillard/AFP/Getty%20Images

36. Mali, 89.8

Mali struggled to maintain the fragile peace that was established in the wake of France's military intervention against Islamist insurgents in early 2013 -- an alliance of Tuareg rebels and Islamist militants that had taken control of much of the country's north.

Above, Malian soldiers patrol in Kidal, northern Mali, on July 27, 2013.

Kenzo Tribouillard/AFP/Getty Images

http://37.%20Congo%20(Republic),%2089.6%20%20%20%20%20%20%20%20The%20Republic%20of%20Congo%20--%20unlike%20its%20neighbor%20to%20the%20east%20--%20has%20managed%20to%20emerge%20from%20a%20violent%20history%20of%20ethnic%20conflict%20and%20civil%20war%20to%20an%20era%20of%20relative%20stability.%20Due%20to%20recent%20developments%20in%20its%20oil%20sector,%20the%20country%20--%20already%20among%20Africa's%20largest%20oil%20producers%20--%20is%20projected%20to%20number%20among%20the%20continent's%20top%20three%20by%202017.%20Still,%20nearly%20one%20half%20of%20the%20Congo's%20population%20lives%20below%20the%20poverty%20line.%20%20%20%20%20%20Above,%20Congolese%20gather%20their%20belongings%20among%20debris%20on%20Mar.%207,%202012,%20a%20few%20days%20after%20the%20blasts%20at%20an%20arms%20depot%20in%20the%20Mpila%20district%20of%20Brazzaville.%20%20%20%20%20%20Patrick%20Fort/AFP/Getty%20Images

37. Congo (Republic), 89.6

The Republic of Congo -- unlike its neighbor to the east -- has managed to emerge from a violent history of ethnic conflict and civil war to an era of relative stability. Due to recent developments in its oil sector, the country -- already among Africa's largest oil producers -- is projected to number among the continent's top three by 2017. Still, nearly one half of the Congo's population lives below the poverty line.

Above, Congolese gather their belongings among debris on Mar. 7, 2012, a few days after the blasts at an arms depot in the Mpila district of Brazzaville.

Patrick Fort/AFP/Getty Images

http://38.%20Malawi,%2089.1%20%20%20%20%20%20%20%20Allegations%20of%20corruption%20have%20plagued%20Malawian%20President%20Joyce%20Banda's%20tenure%20in%20office.%20In%202013%20she%20dismissed%20her%20cabinet%20over%20stolen%20state%20funds%20--%20around%2040%20percent%20of%20which%20comes%20from%20foreign%20aid.%20Nonetheless,%20Malawi%20has%20risen%20by%20nearly%20ten%20positions%20in%20the%20index%20in%20the%20past%20eight%20years%20 --%20from%2029th%20in%202006,%20to%2038th%20in%202014.%20%20%20%20%20%20Above,%20police%20officers%20in%20combat%20gear%20sit%20in%20Blantyre%20on%20Jan.%2017,%202013.%20%20%20%20%20%20Stringer/AFP/Getty%20Images

38. Malawi, 89.1

Allegations of corruption have plagued Malawian President Joyce Banda's tenure in office. In 2013 she dismissed her cabinet over stolen state funds -- around 40 percent of which comes from foreign aid. Nonetheless, Malawi has risen by nearly ten positions in the index in the past eight years  -- from 29th in 2006, to 38th in 2014.

Above, police officers in combat gear sit in Blantyre on Jan. 17, 2013.

Stringer/AFP/Getty Images

http://39.%20Burkina%20Faso,%2089.0%20%20%20%20%20%20%20%20%20Burkina%20Faso's%20difficulties%20have%20been%20exacerbated%20in%20recent%20years%20by%20periods%20of%20drought%20that%20have%20led%20to%20shortages%20of%20food%20and%20water%20across%20the%20Sahel%20region.%20This%20problem%20was%20further%20intensified%20after%20the%20country%20absorbed%20some%2047,000%20Malian%20refugees%20--%20and%20their%20cattle%20--%20caused%20tensions%20to%20mount%20over%20the%20scarcity%20of%20water%20and%20vegetation.%20%20%20%20%20%20Above,%20a%20miner%20stands%20near%20a%20gold%20mine%20in%20the%20Ganzourgou%20region%20on%20Feb.%2020.%20%20%20%20%20%20Ahmed%20Ouoba/AFP/Getty%20Images

39. Burkina Faso, 89.0

Burkina Faso's difficulties have been exacerbated in recent years by periods of drought that have led to shortages of food and water across the Sahel region. This problem was further intensified after the country absorbed some 47,000 Malian refugees -- and their cattle -- caused tensions to mount over the scarcity of water and vegetation.

Above, a miner stands near a gold mine in the Ganzourgou region on Feb. 20.

Ahmed Ouoba/AFP/Getty Images

http://40.%20Cambodia,%2088.5%20%20%20%20%20%20%20%20Over%20the%20past%20decade,%20Cambodia%20has%20seen%20promising%20economic%20growth.%20Thanks%20in%20large%20part%20to%20the%20country's%20burgeoning%20garment%20industry,%20the%20country's%20poverty%20rate%20today%20is%20less%20than%20half%20of%20what%20it%20was%20in%202007.%20However,%20development%20has%20come%20at%20a%20price.%20In%20addition%20to%20rapid%20deforestation%20and%20government%20land%20grabs,%20the%20country%20has%20been%20"engulfed%20in%20a%20human%20rights%20crisis,"%20according%20to%20Human%20Rights%20Watch;%20protests%20over%20the%20July%202013%20elections,%20as%20well%20as%20the%20exploitative%20garment%20industry,%20elicited%20vicious%20government%20crackdowns.%20%20%20%20%20%20Above,%20Cambodian%20anti-riot%20police%20arrest%20a%20protester%20during%20a%20clash%20between%20police%20and%20garment%20workers%20in%20Phnom%20Penh%20on%20Nov.%2012,%202013.%20%20%20%20%20%20Thomas%20Cristofoletti/AFP/Getty%20Images

40. Cambodia, 88.5

Over the past decade, Cambodia has seen promising economic growth. Thanks in large part to the country's burgeoning garment industry, the country's poverty rate today is less than half of what it was in 2007. However, development has come at a price. In addition to rapid deforestation and government land grabs, the country has been "engulfed in a human rights crisis," according to Human Rights Watch; protests over the July 2013 elections, as well as the exploitative garment industry, elicited vicious government crackdowns.

Above, Cambodian anti-riot police arrest a protester during a clash between police and garment workers in Phnom Penh on Nov. 12, 2013.

Thomas Cristofoletti/AFP/Getty Images

http://41.%20Togo,%2087.8%20%20%20%20%20%20%20%20Although%20it%20continues%20to%20see%20modest%20economic%20growth,%20the%20West%20African%20country%20nestled%20between%20Ghana%20and%20Benin%20has%20experienced%20an%20increase%20in%20extreme%20poverty%20over%20recent%20years%20due%20to%20expanding%20wealth%20inequality.%20Meanwhile,%20long%20delayed%20parliamentary%20elections%20kept%20the%20Unir%20Party%20of%20President%20Faure%20Gnassingbé%20--%20whose%20family%20has%20ruled%20the%20country%20for%2067%20years%20--%20in%20power,%20despite%20allegations%20of%20fraud%20and%20protests%20from%20the%20opposition.%20%20%20%20%20%20Above,%20gendarmes%20clash%20with%20opposition%20supporters%20gathered%20near%20the%20Gendarmerie%20Nationale%20in%20Lome%20on%20March%2012,%202013,%20after%20opposition%20leaders%20Jean-Pierre%20Fabre%20and%20Abass%20Kaboua%20were%20called%20in%20for%20questioning%20in%20relation%20to%20the%20January%20fires%20that%20destroyed%20the%20Grande%20Marches%20in%20Lome%20and%20Kara.%20%20%20%20%20%20Daniel%20Hayduk/AFP/Getty%20Images

41. Togo, 87.8

Although it continues to see modest economic growth, the West African country nestled between Ghana and Benin has experienced an increase in extreme poverty over recent years due to expanding wealth inequality. Meanwhile, long delayed parliamentary elections kept the Unir Party of President Faure Gnassingbé -- whose family has ruled the country for 67 years -- in power, despite allegations of fraud and protests from the opposition.

Above, gendarmes clash with opposition supporters gathered near the Gendarmerie Nationale in Lome on March 12, 2013, after opposition leaders Jean-Pierre Fabre and Abass Kaboua were called in for questioning in relation to the January fires that destroyed the Grande Marches in Lome and Kara.

Daniel Hayduk/AFP/Getty Images

http://43.%20Angola,%2087.4%20%20%20%20%20%20%20%20Despite%20the%20fact%20that%20Angola%20remains%20Africa's%20second%20largest%20oil%20producer,%20over%2040%20percent%20of%20the%20country's%20population%20lives%20below%20the%20international%20poverty%20line.%20A%20prolonged%20period%20of%20drought%20in%20the%20country's%20South%20exacerbated%20inequality,%20though%20the%20government%20of%20President%20José%20Eduardo%20dos%20Santos%20has%20been%20criticized%20for%20downplaying%20its%20effects.%20The%20government%20faced%20further%20criticism%20for%20the%20continued%20persecution%20of%20Angola's%20Muslims,%20as%20Islam%20remains%20legally%20unrecognized%20by%20the%20state.%20Dos%20Santos,%20whose%20administration%20has%20been%20accused%20of%20widespread%20human%20rights%20abuses%20and%20corruption,%20has%20been%20in%20power%20for%20over%20three%20decades.%20%20%20%20%20%20Above,%20heavy%20rainfall%20causes%20traffic%20problems%20in%20Luanda,%20Angola%20on%20Mar.%2026.%20%20%20%20%20%20Michael%20Kappeler/Picture-Alliance/DPA/AP%20Images

43. Angola, 87.4

Despite the fact that Angola remains Africa's second largest oil producer, over 40 percent of the country's population lives below the international poverty line. A prolonged period of drought in the country's South exacerbated inequality, though the government of President José Eduardo dos Santos has been criticized for downplaying its effects. The government faced further criticism for the continued persecution of Angola's Muslims, as Islam remains legally unrecognized by the state. Dos Santos, whose administration has been accused of widespread human rights abuses and corruption, has been in power for over three decades.

Above, heavy rainfall causes traffic problems in Luanda, Angola on Mar. 26.

Michael Kappeler/Picture-Alliance/DPA/AP Images

http://44.%20Iran,%2087.2%20%20%20%20%20%20%20%20With%20the%20election%20of%20moderate%20President%20Hassan%20Rouhani%20and%20the%20progress%20in%20negotiations%20over%20its%20nuclear%20program,%20there%20are%20signs%20that%20Iran%20may%20be%20emerging%20from%20diplomatic%20and%20economic%20isolation.%20In%20November%202013,%20in%20its%20first%20formal%20agreement%20with%20the%20United%20States%20in%2034%20years,%20Iran%20agreed%20to%20temporarily%20curb%20its%20nuclear%20program%20in%20exchange%20for%20a%20partial%20reprieve%20from%20crippling%20sanctions.%20However,%20with%20recent%20talks%20faltering%20and%20with%20continued%20criticism%20of%20Tehran's%20restrictions%20on%20press%20freedom%20and%20the%20persecution%20of%20minorities,%20lasting%20change%20is%20by%20no%20means%20a%20guarantee.%20%20%20%20%20%20Above,%20Iranian%20Shiite%20Muslims%20beat%20their%20chests%20at%20Tehran's%20Grand%20Bazaar,%20on%20Dec.%2023,%202013,%20during%20the%20Arbaeen%20religious%20festival%20commemorating%20the%20seventh-century%20killing%20of%20the%20Prophet%20Mohammed's%20grandson,%20Imam%20Hussein.%20%20%20%20%20%20Behrouz%20Mehri/AFP/Getty%20Images

44. Iran, 87.2

With the election of moderate President Hassan Rouhani and the progress in negotiations over its nuclear program, there are signs that Iran may be emerging from diplomatic and economic isolation. In November 2013, in its first formal agreement with the United States in 34 years, Iran agreed to temporarily curb its nuclear program in exchange for a partial reprieve from crippling sanctions. However, with recent talks faltering and with continued criticism of Tehran's restrictions on press freedom and the persecution of minorities, lasting change is by no means a guarantee.

Above, Iranian Shiite Muslims beat their chests at Tehran's Grand Bazaar, on Dec. 23, 2013, during the Arbaeen religious festival commemorating the seventh-century killing of the Prophet Mohammed's grandson, Imam Hussein.

Behrouz Mehri/AFP/Getty Images

45. Djibouti, 87.1

Despite the billions of dollars in foreign financing thanks to its strategic location at the mouth of the Red Sea, Djibouti -- which possesses less than 1,000 square kilometers of arable land -- still suffers from chronic food scarcity and poverty. The country's human rights record remains worrying: Security forces killed six people during demonstrations following the country's February 2013 election.

Above, Djiboutians shop at the Balasrambu market on April 6, 2011.

Simon Maina/AFP/Getty Images

http://46.%20Lebanon,%2086.9%20%20%20%20%20%20%20%20In%202013,%20Lebanon%20increasingly%20suffered%20the%20collateral%20effects%20of%20the%20war%20raging%20in%20neighboring%20Syria.%20Hezbollah's%20open%20involvement%20in%20combat%20in%20May%202013%20sparked%20sectarian%20conflict%20on%20Lebanese%20soil,%20including%20car%20bombs%20in%20the%20organization's%20South%20Beirut%20stronghold%20and%20a%20double%20suicide%20bombing%20at%20the%20Iranian%20Embassy%20in%20central%20Beirut%20that%20left%2022%20dead.%20Meanwhile,%20Lebanon's%20infrastructure%20is%20straining%20under%20the%20weight%20of%20Syria's%20humanitarian%20crisis,%20as%20refugees%20continue%20to%20spill%20across%20the%20border.%20In%202014,%20the%20number%20of%20registered%20Syrian%20refugees%20in%20Lebanon%20reached%20over%201%20million%20--%20almost%20a%20quarter%20of%20the%20country's%20population.%20%20%20%20%20%20Above,%20Lebanese%20civilians%20and%20emergency%20personnel%20gather%20at%20the%20site%20of%20a%20car%20bomb%20between%20Bir%20el-Abed%20and%20Roueiss%20neighborhoods,%20in%20the%20southern%20suburb%20of%20Beirut%20on%20Aug.%2015,%202013.%20%20%20%20%20%20AFP/Getty%20Images

46. Lebanon, 86.9

In 2013, Lebanon increasingly suffered the collateral effects of the war raging in neighboring Syria. Hezbollah's open involvement in combat in May 2013 sparked sectarian conflict on Lebanese soil, including car bombs in the organization's South Beirut stronghold and a double suicide bombing at the Iranian Embassy in central Beirut that left 22 dead. Meanwhile, Lebanon's infrastructure is straining under the weight of Syria's humanitarian crisis, as refugees continue to spill across the border. In 2014, the number of registered Syrian refugees in Lebanon reached over 1 million -- almost a quarter of the country's population.

Above, Lebanese civilians and emergency personnel gather at the site of a car bomb between Bir el-Abed and Roueiss neighborhoods, in the southern suburb of Beirut on Aug. 15, 2013.

AFP/Getty Images

http://47.%20Solomon%20Islands,%2086.4%20%20%20%20%20%20%20%20Solomon%20Islands%20--%20with%20a%20population%20of%20just%20over%20half%20a%20million%20--%20is%20one%20of%20the%20Pacific%20region's%20poorest%20countries.%20The%20chain%20of%20low-lying%20volcanic%20islands%20is%20highly%20vulnerable%20to%20natural%20disasters%20like%20the%202013%20tsunami%20that%20left%20homes%20destroyed%20and%20four%20dead%20in%20the%20town%20of%20Lata.%20%20%20%20%20%20%20Above,%20buildings%20along%20the%20Mataniko%20River%20are%20flooded%20on%20April%203.%20%20%20%20%20%20AP%20Photo/Solomon%20Star

47. Solomon Islands, 86.4

Solomon Islands -- with a population of just over half a million -- is one of the Pacific region's poorest countries. The chain of low-lying volcanic islands is highly vulnerable to natural disasters like the 2013 tsunami that left homes destroyed and four dead in the town of Lata.

Above, buildings along the Mataniko River are flooded on April 3.

AP Photo/Solomon Star

48. Uzbekistan, 86.3

This Central Asian nation -- the region's most populous -- continues to be criticized for what Human Rights Watch called an "atrocious" human rights record under the longtime rule of President Islam Karimov. Among the grievances listed in its 2013 report: forced child labor, torture, and severely limited freedom of expression. In 2013, Uzbekistan fell to the bottom tier in the U.S. State Department's annual report on human trafficking, which took the government to task for its forced labor of adults and older children in the country's yearly cotton harvest.

Above, ethnic Uzbek refugees cross the Kyrgyz-Uzbek border on their way back to Kyrgyzstan on June 18, 2010.

Viktor Drachev/AFP/Getty Images

http://49.%20Zambia,%2086.2%20%20%20%20%20%20%20%20Zambia%20--%20the%20continent's%20largest%20producer%20of%20copper%20--%20has%20seen%20remarkable%20economic%20growth%20over%20the%20past%20decade%20and%20is%20now%20considered%20by%20the%20World%20Bank%20to%20be%20of%20"middle%20income%20status."%20Still,%2060%20percent%20of%20the%20residents%20in%20this%20Southern%20African%20country%20reside%20below%20the%20poverty%20line%20with%2042%20percent%20living%20in%20extreme%20poverty.%20%20%20%20%20%20Above,%20Zambia%20Army%20personnel%20carry%20the%20caskets%20of%20victims%20of%20the%20Chibombo%20bus%20accident%20on%20Feb.%2011,%202013%20at%20Mutengo%20Cemetery%20in%20Ndola.%20%20%20%20%20%20Joseph%20Mwenda/AFP/Getty%20Images

49. Zambia, 86.2

Zambia -- the continent's largest producer of copper -- has seen remarkable economic growth over the past decade and is now considered by the World Bank to be of "middle income status." Still, 60 percent of the residents in this Southern African country reside below the poverty line with 42 percent living in extreme poverty.

Above, Zambia Army personnel carry the caskets of victims of the Chibombo bus accident on Feb. 11, 2013 at Mutengo Cemetery in Ndola.

Joseph Mwenda/AFP/Getty Images

http://50.%20Mozambique,%2085.9%20%20%20%20%20%20%20%20In%20the%20past%20two%20decades,%20Mozambique%20has%20seen%20significant%20economic%20growth%20and%20relative%20stability.%20However,%202013%20brought%20change%20for%20the%20worse.%20The%20country's%20major%20opposition%20party,%20Renamo,%20announced%20it%20would%20be%20pulling%20out%20of%20the%201992%20peace%20pact%20that%20ended%20the%20country's%2017%20year%20long%20civil%20war,%20prompting%20renewed%20unrest%20and%20economic%20uncertainty.%20%20%20%20%20%20Above,%20riot%20police%20patrol%20on%20Nov.%2016,%202013%20in%20the%20central%20port%20city%20of%20Beira%20after%20clashes%20during%20the%20last%20stage%20of%20campaigning%20for%20the%20Nov.%2020%20municipal%20elections.%20%20%20%20%20%20Maria%20Celeste%20MacArthur/AFP/Getty%20Images

50. Mozambique, 85.9

In the past two decades, Mozambique has seen significant economic growth and relative stability. However, 2013 brought change for the worse. The country's major opposition party, Renamo, announced it would be pulling out of the 1992 peace pact that ended the country's 17 year long civil war, prompting renewed unrest and economic uncertainty.

Above, riot police patrol on Nov. 16, 2013 in the central port city of Beira after clashes during the last stage of campaigning for the Nov. 20 municipal elections.

Maria Celeste MacArthur/AFP/Getty Images

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