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.
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.
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 relief, urgent care for moms and babies, medical assistance and more.
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.
“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.