By the Numbers

Years old

The average life expectancy in these communities.

– National Autonomous University of Mexico


Of infants

will die before reaching the age of 2.

– Hiroshi Shinomiya with UNESCO

15 million people

were estimated to live and work in garbage dump communities worldwide as of 2017. Reports have shown that this number is on the rise for 2019.


A carefully maintained structure built into or on top of the ground, where waste is disposed of through regulated, systematic burnings.


A place where garbage is dumped illegally and/or without the careful regulations of a landfill. Instead of being burned, garbage in garbage dumps is left to rot.

The dangers of garbage dumps

Garbage dumps are incredibly dangerous places to live and work, with dangers that we don’t think about in our day-to-day lives. The minority of deaths in garbage dumps are natural. Causes of danger and death include:

Methane gas buildup causing spontaneous combustion

Getting swallowed into garbage landslides and suffocating

Illness from contaminated food and water, toxic air, and lack of sanitation

Serious and/or gangrenous injury from glass or shrapnel

Being run over by garbage trucks/crushed by contents

Disease and disability caused by medical waste dumping

Gang violence and blackmail based on region

Trauma and mental illness related to severity of the conditions

Q: Why would someone live here?

A: Because they have no other choice.

  1. Garbage dumps are mostly inhabited by vulnerable populations, including those who face extreme poverty, severe illness and/or disability, and lack of educational opportunities.
  2. Garbage dumps are the only place in these areas where people can live for free and find items that they can keep for their families or sell for profit, which incentivizes vulnerable populations to stay there.
  3. In almost all garbage dumps, recycling garbage offers opportunities for small wages for those willing to filter through the contents – a wage that allows individuals and their families to survive, but not a high enough wage for them to leave.

Q: Why don’t the people here leave?

A: Because they can’t afford to.

  1. Families get trapped in a cycle of generational poverty because the wages offered by recycling are not high enough to cover even their most basic needs.
  2. Most garbage dump communities don’t have access to schools. Without access to formal education or jobs that offer enough money to relocate, those living in garbage dumps cannot afford to live or work elsewhere, or save money to invest in their futures.
  3. Living and working in the garbage dump often leads to sickness, disease, or serious injury, further trapping generations of families in the garbage dump.

The locations where international samaritan works

Repi in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

Also known as Kore or Koshe, which means “dirty” in Amharic, this dumpsite began in 1964 and holds the trash of 5 million people living in or near the capital.  About 500 people make a living at the site.

Learn More

El Trebol in Guatemala City, Guatemala

The largest dumpsite in Central America, El Trebol began in 1966 and receives about 300,000 tons of waste each year.  It is estimated that 2,000 recyclers work at the site.

Learn More

El Ocotillo in San Pedro Sula, Honduras

San Pedro Sula is the most dangerous city in the world, with an average of 187 murders for every 100,000.  The dump site in San Pedro is controlled by gangs. 

Learn More

LaChureca in Managua, Nicaragua

After an earthquake devastated Nicaragua in 1972, killing thousands of residents, this dumpsite grew exponentially. A population of 700,000 people live within a six mile radius of the dump.

Learn More

How you can help


Through a service immersion or medical mission.


To our programs via our donation page.


Through sharing information about this issue with your peers.


Join us on the first Friday of Lent every year for the Fast2Change campaign.

About Us

International Samaritan is a nonprofit organization with the designation 501(c)(3). Our headquarters is located in Ann Arbor Michigan.


(734) 222-0701

803 N Main St, Ann Arbor, MI 48104

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