These 5 countries are the worst environmental offenders

A displaced Somali woman sits outside her temporary dwelling after fleeing famine in the Marka Lower Shabelle regions to the capital, Mogadishu.
Thomson Reuters

Each year, Yale’s Environmental Performance Index (EPI) ranks 180 countries based on how well they’ve fared at protecting human health and vulnerable ecosystems.

The EPI creates the index by giving each country a score out of 100 that’s based on a number of specific metrics. The individual scores are averaged for each country to create the rankings.

The worst offending countries all share a few common traits. They are mostly impoverished and torn apart by conflict and have ongoing problems with drought and environmental degradation.

We’ve brought you the top five countries. Now, here are the five worst offenders from the 2016 report:

No. 180. Somalia: 27.66

A Somali woman walks past the scene of a suicide car explosion in Hodan District in the capital, Mogadishu, on June 24.
REUTERS/Feisal Omar

Somalia was the lowest-scoring country on the EPI for a good reason: The country has been mired in a decades-long conflict. Warring factions, like the terrorist group Al Shabaab, are constantly jostling for control.

It ranks 168th in health impacts, 176th in water and sanitation, 100th in fisheries, and 179th in biodiversity and habitat protection.

The lack of firm authority has allowed piracy to flourish, and Somalia’s unregulated fishery has decimated fish stocks along its coast. Many Somali also lack access to clean water and safe sanitation.

No. 179. Eritrea: 36.73

A woman sits next to an escarpment on the outskirts of Asmara, Eritrea, on February 20.
REUTERS/Thomas Mukoya

Eritrea narrowly beat Somalia to take the 179th spot. Sixty-six percent of Eritreans live below the poverty line, and the country suffers from droughts and rampant famine.

It ranks 160th in health impacts, 105th in air quality, 168th in water and sanitation, and 165th in biodiversity and habitat.

Conflict is also an ongoing problem in Eritrea, and its army is often involved in border skirmishes with neighboring Ethiopia and Djibouti.

But Eritrea is also rich in mineral resources, and the government hopes to build the economy through the mining sector.

No. 178. Madagascar: 37.10

A girl carries laundry to be washed as she walks along a bridge near the banks of the Ikopa River in Madagascar’s capital, Antananarivo, on December 22, 2013.
REUTERS/Thomas Mukoya

Madagascar took the third-lowest spot. Similar to Somalia, Madagascar is largely undeveloped and is among the poorest countries in the world.

It ranks 178th on health impacts, 177th in water and sanitation, 130th in air quality, and 132nd in biodiversity and habitat.

Despite Madagascar’s low rank, it scored 20th on agriculture, likely because most Malagasies farm through traditional methods.

Yet Madagascar is also one of the most biodiverse countries on the planet – claiming unique species found nowhere else – so protecting its environment from illegal logging operations is crucial.

No. 177. Niger: 37.48

Migrants sit in the back of a truck at a local immigration transit center in the desert town of Agadez, Niger, on May 25.
REUTERS/Akintunde Akinleye

Niger came in 177th. It consistently ranks among the lowest countries on the UN’s Human Development Index, and it suffers from massive drought and desertification.

It ranks 180th in health impacts, 179th in water and sanitation, 168th in water resources, and 159th in air quality.

Niger’s sanitation problems are widespread, and many in rural areas lack access to toilets and clean drinking water.

But the country is making progress. Over the past 20 years, Niger’s farmers have planted and maintained over 200 million new trees in an effort to combat desertification.

No. 176. Afghanistan: 37.50

Internally displaced Afghan children sit outside their shelter in Kabul, Afghanistan, on March 9.
REUTERS/Mohammad Ismail

Afghanistan narrowly beat Niger for the 176th spot. It has struggled with conflict for decades, so protecting ecosystems and improving key health infrastructure has taken a backseat.

It ranks 161st for water and sanitation, 139th for health impacts, and 178th for biodiversity and habitat.

Deforestation continues to be an ongoing problem in Afghanistan, as many impoverished Afghans rely on wood stoves to heat their homes during the brutal winters. As well, nearly one-third of all Afghans lack adequate nutrition.