Effects of Poverty on Children - Compassion International

Effects of Poverty on Children

Poverty. We see it everywhere. Here in the U.S. and all around the world. But what is poverty? What causes it? And can we really do anything about it? If we’re going to solve poverty— we must first understand what it is.

When we think about poverty, we usually think economics. The poor are those without resources. In fact, The World Bank defines extreme poverty as, "living on less than $1.90 a day." That equates to an annual income of $693.50 per year. That’s right – less than $700 a year.

The $1.90 figure represents the purchasing power parity (PPP) which is a metric used to compare relative purchasing power. Here in the U.S., it would be impossible to provide food, water, housing and medical care for a family on $700 a year. Just think: the average American family of four spends about $4,000 a year on food alone. And yet around the world – more than 900 million people have no choice. They’re struggling to survive on just $700 per year.

A child visibly affected by extreme poverty

Poverty makes children especially vulnerable to disease, malnutrition, water-borne illnesses, exploitation and trafficking.

Poverty makes children especially vulnerable to disease, malnutrition, water-borne illnesses, exploitation and trafficking. It limits access to education and healthcare and worse it keeps them from opportunities to do anything about it. You can define poverty using economic terms - but it’s so much more than that.

If poverty really was just about the lack of resources, the solution would be simple: provide more resources. Problem solved. But, charity only helps in the short term - the fact is - long-term welfare actually makes the problem worse

Charity only helps in the short term.

Why? Because poor people begin to rely on the gifts of others and don’t gain or seek opportunities to help themselves, it’s a vicious cycle…And it tricks people in to believing the worst things about themselves. "You are worthless. You can’t even provide for yourself. You must rely on others and always will."

The World Bank actually asked the poor themselves how they would define poverty. The responses are heart-breaking:

A woman from Moldova, describes her existence in poverty like this:


"For a poor person everything is terrible – illness, humiliation, shame. We are cripples: we are afraid of everything; we depend on everyone. No one needs us, we are like garbage that everyone wants to get rid of."

Poverty makes people feel HOPELESS. And THAT is the real problem.


A woman sits on the ground breaking rocks


A woman from Uganda said, "When one is poor, she has no say in public, she feels inferior. She has no food, so there is famine in her house; no clothing, and no progress."

It’s really not a lack of stuff. It’s the lack of hope. However, once we clearly define our problem - then and only then can we begin to formulate a solution. "Give a man a fish…right?" Give a person HOPE… and you can change the course of their entire life…and the life of their entire family.

So, the big question is, How do we give Hope to the poor and vulnerable? Here’s the kicker, ending poverty is something we’ve been commanded to do. Scripture is clear - 1 John 3:17 says, "If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, How can the love of God be in him?"

This is a HUGE problem. It’s overwhelming. How can we fight poverty in ways that give and restore hope. Here at Compassion, we believe this is best accomplished in two ways:

#1—living out The Great Commission and

#2—obeying the Great Commandment.

One addresses physical needs. The other addresses spiritual needs. The two go hand in hand. We must provide hope. We must help the poor see that they have great worth. That they have God-given potential. That God loves them so much that he sent His Son to die for them! We do all of these things WHILE we’re addressing the brutal physical struggles that accompany living in poverty. That’s why we don’t think there’s a difference between evangelism and anti-poverty work. In fact, evangelism is the only TRUE and LASTING anti-poverty work. And it’s the most powerful solution to ending extreme poverty around the world.


A group of children wearing green sweaters stand in a line with their hands raised and eyes closed in prayer


It’s hope in Jesus Christ that brings change—and that’s what we’re fighting for each and every day at Compassion International. We’re a global Child Development organization dedicated to releasing children from poverty in Jesus’ name. We are Church-Based, Christ-Centered and Child-Focused…and independent research has confirmed the effectiveness of this approach. Plain and simple…Our program works.

Join us today and bring HOPE to children who desperately need it around the world. They need hope…desperately. 'If not you, who? If not now, when?

Olive Aneno

My name is Olive Aneno. I grew up in the slums of Northern Uganda.

I am a graduate of the Compassion program, and my life is proof that the Compassion model works. I now have a college degree.

Compassion worked through my church to introduce me to Jesus and to raise not only me, but my entire family out of poverty.

Please, help end poverty by bringing hope to a child who needs it.

Donate right now.

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