Millions of families live in extreme poverty. Children suffer the most when there are food price hikes or when drought or floods destroy crops. Often linked to poverty, discrimination – in different countries both the laws and the different traditions and prejudices are putting children in an unequal position with each other. Poverty is often affecting most to those children who are discriminated in other ways: for example, ethnic and religious minorities, disabled children, refugees and girls. Save the Children estimates that about 400 million children from ethnic and religious groups are discriminated. Poverty deprives too many children of their childhoods.

When life is a daily struggle to stay alive, children in particular are vulnerable to exploitation, violence and social exclusion. Poverty jeopardizes children’s physical and mental health. It forces many children into dangerous work and robs them of the possibility to attend school. Poverty harms children even before they are born. In Burkina Faso, for example, many children are born with malnutrition because their mothers are themselves malnourished.

Save the Children operates in the poorest regions of the world to help families improve their incomes. In order to mitigate the harm that poverty causes children, we examine the causes of poverty and carry out advocacy work to rectify the structural factors in society that bring about poverty. The social protection programs have succeeded in effectively improving child nutrition and health and to increase school attendance. The risk of children falling victim to exploitation has also decreased. Save the Children has been developing child-sensitive social protection, for example, in India, Nepal and the Philippines.

We reduce child poverty and vulnerability by ensuring that both the social security systems and the families are investing adequately and appropriately in children. We provide training on the use of existing forms of state support for authorities and for the parents of families living in extreme poverty. We conduct advocacy work at national level in collaboration with other organizations for a more child sensitive social protection policy. We are also developing the proficiency of local partners and research the impacts of child poverty.

Ishwar’s story


13-year-old Ishwar has been left orphaned after the death of his mother’s several years ago. Ishwar has been in charge of her family after the death of her mother. The family lives in north-western India, which suffers from chronic poverty. Ishwar’s family includes 8-year-old sister Usha and the father Rama Damor, who has lost his sight completely due to cataracts. The children are taking care of cooking, searching for water and feed for livestock. Ishwar and Usha go to school on alternate days, so one of them can always be home to help their blind father. The family’s monthly income is the father’s pension that is around 7€. Ishwar owns just the clothes he is wearing and broken glasses, because the family can’t afford new ones. The family home has been a very messy, and, for example, dishes aren’t washed between meals.

Save the Children has helped Ishwar to get social support, which belongs to him, but due to the complexity of the application process Ishwar hasn’t get it before. The social support improve significantly the family’s financial situation. Merely social security doesn’t automatically improve Ishwar’s and Usha’s well-being, and that’s why Ishwar and his father will receive guidance on hygiene and health care. Now Ishwar washes his clothes every day, and the family keeps groceries obscured. In addition, Ishwar has had help for his eye problems and he has also received new glasses.

Reports and other publications