World Poverty is a Disaster

Billions of people around the world live in extreme poverty. Nearly 10 percent of the world's population. That's nearly 700 million people living below the World Bank poverty line of $1.90 per day.

And almost half the world (nearly 4 billion people) lives with a household income below $2.50 a day.

The extremely poor live without support, on the sidelines, watching economic growth and prosperity pass them by. They are shunned by the world economy. They live lives abundant in scarcity. Without enough food, access to clean water, or proper sanitation. Without access to safe shelter, health care, or education.

Even the environment attacks poor people.

When nature strikes, the world's poor suffer the most.

a man carries a mattress on his head while walking in waist deep water

More than 1.35 million people have been killed by earthquakes, hurricanes and typhoons, tsunamis, etc. over the past 20 years. The world's poorest countries bore the brunt of the devastation.

In 2004, the Indian Ocean tsunami killed 230,000 people. All of them were in poor countries — low- and middle-income countries* such as: Indonesia, Sri Lanka, Thailand, and India.

In 2011, a similar magnitude earthquake spawned a tsunami that struck high-income Japan, and its waves were 30 feet taller. The number of people who died?

Nineteen thousand.

Poverty was the difference in the death toll.

The 7.0 magnitude earthquake that struck Haiti in January 2010 killed 223,000 people. Equally forceful earthquakes hit Chile and New Zealand later that same year. Five hundred people died in Chile. No deaths occurred in New Zealand.

Poverty caused the difference.

are children

1 Million
after the 2010 earthquake

160 Million
are affected by natural disasters every year

Sources:,, World Bank

Global Poverty and the Sustainable Development Goals

The Sustainable Development Goals (SDG), adopted in 2015 by the United Nations, are the most comprehensive and ambitious poverty reduction plan the world has embarked upon.

They expand the scope of the world community’s previous efforts to end extreme poverty and eradicate the burden poverty places on the world population — child malnutrition, gender inequality, unclean water, improper sanitation, poor health and well-being, and inequalities in education, economics, energy, justice and sustainability.

This burden, the burden of poverty, is literally carried on the heads and on the backs of the poor.

women carrying sacks of tea leaves on their backs

But the burden poverty places on society and individuals isn’t just economic or physical. Measuring poverty this way overlooks the other types of poverty oppressing the marginalized. Poverty causes the poor to suffer emotionally and spiritually as well.

That's why the Sustainable Development Goals aren't just about ending poverty around the world. They're about protecting the planet and ensuring all people enjoy peace and prosperity.

Building a sustainable future means finding ways to meet the needs of the present without sacrificing the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. It requires a unified, collaborative and global approach that isn't bound by cultures, conditions or continents.

Because a life of poverty means the poor carry a shade of poverty in their hearts and wear it etched on their faces. They become shells of unfulfilled potential and possibility.

an elderly Maasai man in traditional Maasai garb

Efforts to eliminate inequality and extreme poverty in the world have gradually lowered poverty rates in many low- and middle-income countries in South Asia, and Latin America. But not everyone has been helped.

According to the World Data Lab, poverty in Africa is increasing in 16 countries. Additionally 27 of the world’s 28 poorest countries are in Sub-saharan Africa, and each has a poverty rate of over 30 percent.1 While the absolute number of people living in global poverty has decreased over the last several decades, in Sub-saharan Africa, the number has increased, and substantially so.

Extreme poverty throughout the world is also rising due to the COVID-19 pandemic. According to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals Report 2020, the global poverty rate is projected to rise to 8.8 percent in 2020 from 8.2 percent in 2019. This is the first increase since 1998.

In working with kids in poverty all around the world, we see poverty trying to steal joy, destroy dignity and put hope to death. We see poverty trying to enslave children and sustain helplessness for generations. And we see the shells of people it conquers.

But poverty doesn’t always win.

Not even close.

Our pictures of poverty show that joy, hope and dignity still bloom in the hearts of the poor.

are concentrated in just five countries

live in Africa

live in rural areas

Source: World Bank and The Brookings Institution

Give With Confidence

With Compassion, your donation is used wisely to help children around the world.

Lock IconWe use industry-standard communication protocols to ensure your personal information is encrypted and transmitted without risk.

Trusted Charity Since 1952

Have Questions About Compassion and How We Work?

Donating to a charity is an important decision. So when you’re passionate about a cause and want to make a difference, we encourage you to do your research. Compassion is 100% committed to financial integrity, stewardship and using each dollar wisely. If you have any questions about Compassion or exactly how your donation will be used, please don’t hesitate to contact us.


Please call us at (800) 336-7676, Monday through Friday, 7 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. MT to speak with a Compassion Representative.



1 Patel, Nirav. “Figure of the Week: Understanding Poverty in Africa.” Brookings, Brookings, 21 Nov. 2018,

2 Wydick, Bruce. "Cost-Effective Compassion: The 10 Most Popular Strategies for Helping the Poor." Christianity Today. accessed 17 February 2012.

* In 2015, the World Bank began phasing out the term "developing world" in its publications and databases. The use of the developed countries and developing countries categories was "becoming less relevant" with the adoption of the Sustainable Development Goals and their focus on targets for the whole world.