Which country's people are most generous to strangers? Iraq, survey finds.

More than half of people in 140 countries surveyed had helped strangers – with many of the most generous in countries hit by disaster and war.

Zohra Bensemra/Reuters
A newly displaced family sits at the school at Debaga Camp on the outskirts of Erbil, Iraq, Oct. 24, 2016.

Although torn by civil war, Iraq is the world's most generous country towards strangers in need, according to a new global index of charitable giving.

Eighty one percent of Iraqis reported helping someone they didn't know in the previous month, in a global poll commissioned by the Charities Aid Foundation (CAF).

For the first time since CAF began the poll in 2010, more than half of people in 140 countries surveyed said they had helped strangers – with many of the most generous found in countries hit hard by disaster and war.

Despite suffering instability and violence, Iraq has twice been ranked top in terms of helping strangers. Libya, with its own internal conflict, was second on the list this year and Somalia, embroiled in civil war for 25 years, fourth.

"I think that the lesson here is societies are incredibly resilient and that large scale disasters tend to activate a collective humanitarian response," said Adam Pickering, international policy manager at CAF, which promotes charitable giving.

In terms of donations to charity, Myanmar held the top position, with nine out of ten surveyed saying they had given during the previous month.

The Southeast Asian country also retained its position for the third year at the top of the World Giving Index – a combined measure of respondents reporting help to strangers, donations of money and time spent volunteering.

The report said the generous giving reflected the practice of "Sangha Dana," where the country's Theravada Buddhist majority donate to support those living a monastic lifestyle.

The United States ranked second on the combined measure of generosity.

The World Giving Index is based on data from a global poll by market research firm Gallup of 140 countries.

Reporting by Matthew Ponsford, editing by Ros Russell. This story originally appeared on the website of the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters that covers humanitarian news, women's rights, trafficking, corruption, and climate change. Visit www.news.trust.org.

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