Poverty in the US is extensive and is deepening under the Trump administration whose policies seem aimed at removing the safety net from millions of poor, while rewarding the rich, a United Nations human rights investigator has found.

Philip Alston, UN special rapporteur on extreme poverty, called on US authorities to provide solid social protection and address underlying problems, rather than “punishing and imprisoning the poor”.

While welfare benefits and access to health insurance are being slashed, Donald Trump’s tax reform has awarded “financial windfalls” to the mega-rich and large companies, further increasing inequality, he said in a report.

US policies since president Lyndon Johnson’s war on poverty in the 1960s have been “neglectful at best”, he said.

“But the policies pursued over the past year seem deliberately designed to remove basic protections from the poorest, punish those who are not in employment and make even basic health care into a privilege to be earned rather than a right of citizenship,” Mr Alston said.

Almost 41 million people live in poverty, 18.5 million of them in extreme poverty, and children account for one in three poor, he said. The US has the highest youth poverty rate among industrialised countries, he added.

“Its citizens live shorter and sicker lives compared to those living in all other rich democracies, eradicable tropical diseases are increasingly prevalent and it has the world’s highest incarceration rate… and the highest obesity levels in the developed world,” Mr Alston said.

However, the data from the US Census Bureau he cited covers only the period through 2016, and he gave no comparative figures on the extent of poverty before and after Mr Trump came into office in January 2017.

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