Social Issues - Compassion International

Quick Facts About Social Issues
Get the facts about social issues in developing countries and how they affect children and their families.

graphic representing facts about social issues

Poverty is a complex issue. Gender inequality, high birth rates, violence, conflict and human rights violations are a few of the many social issues faced by children living in developing countries.

Compassion-assisted children have a chance to confront the social issues in their lives. Sponsored children recieve education, health care and vocational training to help them escape the cycle of poverty and overcome social obstacles.

"Few can understand the worsening plight of families in developing countries more than those who are rising above it. And who better to defeat these societal ills than those who have lived through it?"
 — Wess Stafford, Compassion President Emeritus

With the right resources, many of these facts about social issues can be easily addressed and overcome.

  • The 85 richest people in the world have the same wealth as the 3.5 billion poorest people. 1
  • 54 percent of the world’s population resides in urban areas. By 2050, the world’s population is projected to be 66 percent urban. 2
  • Urban areas are adding nearly 1.4 million inhabitants per week, with 90 percent of this growth taking place in Africa and Asia through 2050. 3

A 10-year old Peruvian boy smiles with his arm and hand stretched out showing his city.

  • By 2030, the world is projected to have 41 mega-cities with more than 10 million inhabitants. 2
  • The fastest growing urban agglomerations are medium-sized cities and cities with less than 1 million inhabitants located in Asia and Africa. 2
  • During 2014, approximately 59.5 million people were forcibly displaced worldwide as a result of persecution, conflict, generalized violence or human rights violations – the highest figure on record. 4
  • Children below 18 years of age constituted 51 percent of the refugee population in 2014, up from 41 percent in 2009 and the highest figure in more than a decade. 4
  • Globally, about one third of women aged 20 to 24 were child brides. 6
  • Almost half of all child brides worldwide live in South Asia; one in three are in India. 7
  • The 10 countries with the highest rates of child marriage (in order): Niger, Bangladesh, Chad, Mali, Central African Republic, India, Guinea, Ethiopia, Burkina Faso and Nepal. 7
  • Globally, women hold 22 percent of seats in single or lower houses of national parliament. 8 Women hold 26 percent of all parliamentary seats in Latin America and the Caribbean. 5
"To overcome the plagues of our world today — poverty, disease, injustice — we need leaders who are fully equipped with a quality education, yet walk the path of Christ."
 — Wess Stafford, Compassion President Emeritus

Margaret Makhoha, a Compassion alumnae, became a member of the Ugandan parliament in 2011.

  • About 16 million girls aged 15 to 19 and some 1 million girls under 15 give birth every year—most in low- and middle-income countries. 9
  • Every year, some 3 million girls aged 15 to 19 undergo unsafe abortions. 9
  • In 2015, the use of modern contraceptive methods in the least developed countries is estimated at around 34 percent among women of reproductive age who were married or in union. 10
  • More than 125 million girls and women alive today have been cut in the 29 countries in Africa and Middle East where female genital mutilation is concentrated. 11
  • Globally, as many as 38 percent of murders of women are committed by an intimate partner. 12
  • 35 percent of women worldwide have experienced either intimate partner violence or non-partner sexual violence in their lifetime. 12
  • On average, 30 percent of women who have been in a relationship report that they have experienced some form of physical or sexual violence by their partner. 12
  • 49 percent of detected victims of human trafficking are adult women. 13
A child's life is worth protecting. Sponsor a child and help prevent child trafficking before it starts.
  • Some 53 percent of the human trafficking victims detected between 2010 and 2012 were trafficked for sexual exploitation. Some 40 percent were trafficked for forced labor. 13
  • Worldwide, more than 700 million women alive today were married before their 18th birthday. More than one in three (about 250 million) entered into union before age 15. 7
  • More than 1.5 billion people live in countries affected by conflict—about a fifth of the world’s population. 1
  • The number of malnourished children averages 60 percent higher in countries where women do not have the right to own land and 85 percent higher in countries where women lack any access to credit. 1
  • Globally women earn 24 percent less than men and hold only 25 percent of administrative and managerial positions in the business world. 8
  • Women are estimated to contribute 52 percent of global work, men 48 percent. 8
  • Women comprise an average of 43 percent of the agricultural labor force in developing countries. 14
How do the UN Sustainable Development Goals relate to Compassion?

several children look outside through a window

The 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.


1 UNDP. Human Development Report 2014. Sustaining Human Progress: Reducing Vulnerabilities and Building Resilience.

2 United Nations, Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Population Division (2014). World Urbanization Prospects: The 2014 Revision, Highlights (ST/ESA/SER.A/352).

3 World Bank on Disaster Risk Management, March 2015.

4 UNHCR, Global Trends: Forced Displacement in 2014.

5 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


7 United Nations Children’s Fund, Ending Child Marriage: Progress and prospects, UNICEF, New York, 2014.

8 UNDP. Human Development Report 2015. Work for Human Development.

9 World Heath Organization Media Centre Fact sheet N°364. Adolescent Pregnancy, September 2014.

10 United Nations, Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Population Division (2015). World Population Prospects: The 2015 Revision, Key Findings and Advance Tables. Working Paper No. ESA/P/WP.241.

11 UNICEF. Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting: a statistical overview and exploration of the dynamics of change, 2013.

12 World Health Organization Media Centre Fact sheet N°239. Violence Against Women, November 2014.

13 UNODC, Global Report on Trafficking in Persons 2014 (United Nations publication, Sales No. E.14.V.10).

14 FAO, 2014 State of Food and Agriculture.