Disaster Relief

Student iconGet the facts on the environmental factors which affect children living in poverty.

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.

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.

  • Between 1901 and 1910 there were 82 recorded disasters, but between 2003 and 2012 there were more than 4,000. 1
  • Every year natural disasters kill around 90,000 people and affect close to 160 million people worldwide. 9
  • Economic losses attributed to weather-related natural disasters total $3.2 trillion since 1980. 2
  • From 1995 through 2014, 89 percent of storm-related fatalities were in lower-income countries, even though these countries experienced just 26 percent of storms. 3
  • An estimated 446 million people live in fragile and conflict-affected states. These states are poorer, with slower economic growth rates and higher population growth rates than other countries. 2
  • In 2015, 68 percent of the world’s population (5.0 billion people) used at least a basic sanitation service such as toilets or latrines; 2.3 billion people still do not have basic sanitation facilities. 4
Young girl smiling while standing near trash piles
Boys walking across a trash collection area
  • 892 million still defecate in the open, for example in street gutters, behind bushes or into open bodies of water. 4
  • Almost 60 percent of deaths due to diarrhea worldwide are attributable to unsafe drinking water and poor hygiene and sanitation. Hand washing with soap alone can cut the risk of diarrhea by at least 40 percent. 10
  • The countries where open defection is most widespread have the highest number of deaths of children aged under 5 years as well as the highest levels of malnutrition and poverty, and big disparities of wealth. 4
  • Over 10 percent of the population still relies on untreated surface water in 22 countries. 8
  • At least 10 percent of the world’s population is thought to consume food irrigated by waste water. 4
  • 860 million people worldwide continue to live in slums. 5
  • Between 2030 and 2050, climate change is expected to cause approximately 250,000 additional deaths per year, from malnutrition, malaria, diarrhoea and heat stress. 6
  • Worldwide 18,000 people a day die because of air pollution. 7

How Do the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals Relate to Compassion?

Students looking through window and smilingThe UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) directly parallel what Compassion does. But when it comes to goals and implementation we sometimes take a different approach. This is a quick analysis of the SDGs and how they most closely match our work, along with ways they overlap and differ.

Learn More >


1 UNESCO Institute for Statistics Fact Sheet. September 2016, No. 38; 50th Anniversary of International Literacy Day: Literacy rates are on the rise but millions remain illiterate.

2 UNESCO Institute for Statistics, Out of School Children Policy Paper 27 / Fact Sheet 37, July 2016.

3 UNESCO, Education for All 2000-2015: Achievement and Challenges 2015.

4 World Bank Group. 2015. Global Monitoring Report 2014/2015: Ending Poverty and Sharing Prosperity. Washington, DC: World Bank. doi: 10.1596/978-1-4648-0336-9. License: Creative Commons Attribution CC BY 3.0 IGO

5 Compassion International, Does International Child Sponsorship Work?, 2008.

6 UNDP. Human Development Report 2016. Human Development for Everyone.

7 UNESCO, 2016 Global Education Monitoring Report (Gender Review: Creating Sustainable Futures for All).

8 UNESCO. 2017. Reading the Past, Writing the Future: Fifty Years of Promoting Literacy.

9 World Bank. 2016. Poverty and Shared Prosperity 2016: Taking on Inequality. Washington, DC: World Bank. doi:10.1596/978-1-4648-0958-3. License: Creative Commons Attribution CC BY 3.0 IGO