How We’re Supporting Children Who May Wait Years for a Vaccine

November began with a sigh of relief from many — thanks to the promising news that a highly effective COVID-19 vaccine is on the horizon. 

But on the heels of this hopeful message was some darker news for those in poverty: While high-income countries claim billions of doses of the vaccine, many low-income countries where Compassion works — countries already hit extremely hard by the virus — may not receive lifesaving immunizations for as long as four years, according to a study.  

Many children, who make up almost half of the world’s poor, cannot wait that long. Today, on World Children’s Day, while young people across the globe wait to be immunized, Compassion continues to support nearly 2.2 million children and youths — by equipping 8,000-plus church partners to meet immediate physical, spiritual and educational needs. 

Farida is wearing an orange and white dress. Beatrice, wearing a red and yellow dress, is holding Farida in front of a mural inside the Compassion center.
Beatrice, a Survival Program implementer in Burkina Faso, holds 16-month-old Farida, one of the babies supported in the program.

The Reality of Need on World Children’s Day 

World Children’s Day, also known as Universal Children’s Day, is recognized around the world as an opportunity to advocate for children’s rights and improve their welfare. Since 1954, this special day has celebrated international efforts to create a world in which every child is able to develop to his or her full potential — the same goal we fight for at Compassion.  

We’re honored to invest in the holistic development of some of the world’s most vulnerable children by helping them grow in mind, body and spirit. But especially today, our hearts break knowing how many children are already suffering due to the worldwide threat of COVID-19 — and how many will continue to suffer without quick access to a vaccine.  

In order to understand how to advocate for the welfare of young people across the world, we must take account of the challenges they face: 

  • Whenever the COVID-19 vaccine is released, billions of doses have been reserved by rich countries. By comparison, fewer than 800 million doses have been reserved for the world’s poorest countries, according to NPR
  • In many of the low-income countries where Compassion works, decades of progress in the fight against poverty have been lost due to COVID-19, according to the United Nations. After extreme child poverty saw a reduction from 2013 to 2017, COVID-19 is predicted to add as many as 150 million people to extreme poverty by 2021, according to the United Nations and World Bank. 
  • More than 60% of Compassion children — and their entire families — live on $3.20 or less per day. In countries such as Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda, more than 90% live on that same amount or less each day. 
  • Hunger related to the virus has already led to the deaths of 10,000 children per month, according to United Nations estimates from earlier this year.  
  • In the past few months alone, deadly storms have affected thousands of people Compassion serves — most notably in Southeast Asia and Central America
Anderson and his mother Keylin stand in front of their home in Honduras in after it was damaged by Hurricane Eta.
Our church partners in Honduras are supporting children like Anderson, 2, and his mother, Keylin, after they lost their home in Hurricane Eta.

What We’re Doing Now to Protect Children 

On World Children’s Day, our commitment to these children remains stronger than ever. While many of our child development centers remain temporarily closed to keep children safe, our Compassion staff and church partners have stayed connected to children through in-person and virtual methods to continue their development.  

Since April, Compassion has worked with local churches to provide nearly 7.5 million food packs — many of which feed entire families for weeks — and nearly 5 million hygiene kits to children and their families. Compassion is also helping thousands of young people receive critical help in other ways through medical support, cash transfers, gifts as cash and even mobile transfers.  

Our loyal supporters remain in contact with the children they sponsor and continue to donate to Compassion, including to our funds for unsponsored children, disaster reliefurgent care for moms and babiesmedical assistance and more

Rosa is wearing jeans and a yellow shirt. She is sitting outside her home and is doing the activities in her education guide from school.
Rosa does schoolwork outside her home in Colombia.

Compassion’s work is important not only because of what it accomplishes, but also because of whom it serves. In some cases, support means helping students stay connected at school, as it did for 13-year-old Rosa in Colombia. When Rosa couldn’t get the internet access she needed for school, a Compassion staff member offered her own mobile phone for Rosa to use and complete her assignments. 

In some more serious cases, Compassion staff help children avoid homelessness and starvation, as they did in Nicaragua by providing food packs and financial support for 16-year-old Ana and her mother, Lisseth. “Without the center, we would have starved,” Lisseth says. “So, I thank the Lord for his blessings and for giving the center staff a helpful, compassionate heart to help families like ours.” 

Renewing Our Commitment 

Even as we wait for millions in poverty to become immunized from COVID-19, we know a vaccine won’t solve the many problems facing children across the world. As long as the waiting continues, we rejoice in the fact that our generous supporters and brave church partners are continuing to meet the needs of children in a time of global crisis. 

A group of children is standing in line waiting to wash their hands. A girl wearing a red sweater is washing her hands as a staff member at Compassion's partner church instructs her. All the children are wearing face masks and are maintaining proper distance from each other.
A child development center worker in Ethiopia helps a girl in Compassion’s program wash her hands as other children wait their turn.

“Especially on Universal Children’s Day, we’re so grateful for our church partners’ heroic efforts to meet the critical needs of Compassion children during the time of COVID-19,” says Compassion President and CEO Santiago “Jimmy” Mellado. “But millions of children around the world are still in desperate need, and there is so much more still to be done. 

“This crisis has emphasized the importance of the local church’s proximity to the need and their unique ability to serve as the hands and feet of Jesus in their communities, and it’s our great privilege to partner with them in that calling.” 

International reporting by Junieth Dinarte and Lina Marcela Alarcón Molina.

3 Comments |Add a comment

  1. John doe November 22, 2021

    Was interested in sponsorship of a child my heart goes out to them.
    After doing some research found that Santiago(Jimmy) Mellado is compensated just shy of $400 000 a year and others in a similar pay bracket how much of my money would get directly to my chosen sponsord child right?
    The worst part if all this to me anyway is the idea that COMPASSION supports a push to vaccinate children(who don’t even get a choice to receive or not) is something I could never financially support ,
    you are making a huge mistake may the smoke of your tournent rise for eternity.

    1. Grace November 22, 2021

      Hello John! Thank you for taking the time to share your concerns with us and I would be happy to address your questions!

      First, I wanted to share our statement on stewardship. It says the following: “The ministry of Compassion belongs to the children, our Implementing Church Partners, our sponsors and donors, and ultimately to God. Therefore, we protect, develop, and deploy all of our resources (people, time, money, knowledge, reputation, and materials) with great care and wisdom.” In order to develop quality staff at Compassion while at the same time managing our financial resources with great care and wisdom, we seek to offer competitive salaries for the various positions necessary to successfully execute Compassion’s mission statement.

      That being said, I understand how it may be unsettling when looking at the salaries of our upper management and board of directors. We take financial integrity very seriously here at Compassion. As a Christian organization, everything we do needs to be worthy of Jesus Christ and we want as much as possible to get to the children we serve. Throughout the years, Compassion has consistently averaged more than 80% of total expenditures being used for program activities, with less than 20% being used for fundraising and administration. These funds are used to provide children benefits such as regular medical check-ups, nutritious meals, education assistance, and connection to a local church community.

      In regards to the vaccine, Compassion staff and church partner staff do not administer vaccinations. The local Ministry of Health provides vaccinations to their various clinics throughout each country and their staff administers vaccinations. As with all health-related decisions, the parents and guardians of each sponsored child will make the choice for their family, in accordance with their priorities and beliefs. Compassion does not force any medical treatment, but rather serves as a partner with the parents and guardians to provide medical services as they need or desire.

      I hope this helps and if you have any further questions, please feel free to email us at [email protected]. Blessings!

  2. Karen Byrne November 24, 2020

    I am so thankful to God for all He has done for and given to me all my life. And for my sponsor child. I love the notice I get every day that reminds me to pray for him and Compassion International.

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