Environment Facts

Quick Facts About the Environment
Get the facts on the environment and how it affects children and their families.

Poverty is a complex issue. It is more than a lack of material possessions ... it's a mindset. Oftentimes, this mindset is affected by the environment in which a child lives.

A Kenyan boy is standing near a dump and sewage drainage ditch.

Environmental factors ranging from insect and water-borne illnesses to extreme weather conditions, such as drought and flooding, to lack of access to adequate sanitation depress the spirits, hope and health of the poor.

The environmental issues are numerous and their affect widespread and far-reaching. But Compassion works to ensure that environmental conditions don't make extreme poverty inescapable.

Our programs are multi-faceted, holistic and proven to be effective. Independent research has concluded that Compassion child sponsorship has large and statistically significant impacts on the educational, employment and leadership outcomes of the children in our programs.

These facts about the environment give a glimpse into living conditions, infrastructure, war and weather, among other issues contributing to child poverty.

  • Over 96 percent of all disaster-related deaths worldwide in recent years have occurred in developing countries.
  • Since 1980, low-income countries have accounted for 9 percent of global disasters but 48 percent of global-disaster reported fatalities.
  • In the past 30 years, the frequency and impact of natural disasters has quadrupled. The number of people affected globally by natural disasters has risen by an estimated 50,000 to 60,000 per decade since the early 1970s, affecting 2.9 billion people and killing 1.2 million from 2000-2012.
  • Women and children account for more than 75 percent of displaced people following natural disasters.
  • Drylands are characterized by low rainfall and high rates of evaporation. They occupy 47.2 percent of Earth’s land area and are home to more than 2 billion people. Half of all people living in poverty live in drylands.
  • More than 200 million people live in coastal flood zones, which would be dramatically impacted by rising waters. While some 4 billion people — 60 percent of the world's population — live within 65 miles of a coast.
  • Growing desertification worldwide threatens to increase by millions the number of poor forced to seek new homes and livelihoods.
  • Since 2000, the world has witnessed over 35 major conflicts and some 2,500 natural disasters.
  • Children are more likely than adults to perish during natural disasters or succumb to malnutrition, injuries or disease in the aftermath.
  • Around 3 billion people cook and heat their homes using open fires and leaky stoves burning biomass (wood, animal dung and crop waste) and coal.
  • Indoor air pollution is estimated to cause approximately 2 million premature deaths mostly in developing countries. Almost half of these deaths are due to pneumonia in children under 5 years of age.
  • Urban outdoor air pollution is estimated to cause 1.3 million deaths worldwide per year.
  • Diarrheal disease is a leading cause of child mortality and morbidity in the world, and mostly results from contaminated food and water sources.
  • About 2.6 billion people — half the developing world — lack even a simple bathroom, and 1.1 billion people have no access to safe drinking water.
  • Diarrheal diseases take the lives of 760,000 children under 5 each year. Eighty to 90 percent of these diseases are related to environmental conditions, specifically contaminated water and inadequate sanitation.
  • More than 3 million children under age 5 die each year from diseases because of environment-related causes and conditions.
  • Each year, acute respiration infections kill approximately 2.6 million children around the world. More than 60 percent of acute respiratory infections are due to environmental conditions.
  • More than 600,000 people die each year because of malaria. Of these deaths, 54 percent are in sub-Saharan Africa and most are children. Up to 90 percent of malaria cases are attributed to environmental factors.
  • About 1 million children each year are diagnosed with intestinal worms causing malnutrition due to the lack of sanitation.
  • Intestinal parasites plague 133 million people in the developing world.
  • More than 6 million people are blind from trachoma, a disease caused by the lack of water along with poor hygiene practices. Studies show that an adequate water supply could reduce trachoma infections by 25 percent.
How Do Our Programs Help Combat Environmental Poverty?

Brazilian girl sitting on a stone table in a city park

Securing a safe, healthy environment is essential for ensuring the well-being of an individual. Without it, efforts to improve health, housing, economic security, agriculture and other contributors that raise a person’s, or a community’s, standard of living are undermined.

Sources: World Health Organization, United Nations Environment Programme, United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reductior, Live58, PAI, and
Webster, M., Ginnetti, J., Walker, P., Coppard, D., Kent, R. The Humanitarian Costs of Climate Change. Feinstein International Center. 2008.