The following was published as an editorial in today’s Daily Herald Newspaper.
Nearly 10 million children die each year before reaching their fifth birthday, and the saddest part is that most of those deaths are quite predictable, easily preventable, and utterly treatable. While it is true that some children worldwide die of incurable cancers, tragic accidents, or unpredictable natural disasters, most do not. Nor do they die of diseases like AIDS, avian flu, and SARS, conditions which get most of the media attention. Most children die, year after year after year, of diseases that we in developed countries either don’t see anymore because they are systematically prevented, or aren’t even consider life-threatening. Pneumonia, diarrhea and complications during childbirth are currently responsible for nearly three-quarters of all of these deaths. Measles, tetanus, and malaria are also significant contributors to child mortality. Of course, millions more children live with these diseases and suffer needlessly.
Recent scientific studies show that 60 percent of those children’s lives could be saved by inexpensive, proven interventions. For example, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was a major donor in the Measles Initiative, a vaccine campaign that has decreased the number of deaths due to measles by 500,000 in just six years! Other simple interventions — such as a simple salt solution for dehydration, sleeping under insecticide-treated mosquito nets to prevent malaria, and breast feeding infants — are also highly effective at saving children’s lives.
What can an ordinary citizen do? Usually the reaction after reading these overwhelming numbers is to think that one cannot make a difference, but it is quite easy to help to save the lives of children. We at the Utah Valley Global Health Group are ordinary citizens who have taken it upon ourselves to learn and to act in small but meaningful ways. It does not take much time and one can make a significant difference with little or no money.
There are a number of ways to get involved in global child survival right here in Utah Valley, including BYU’s first “Mother, Newborn, and Child Health Conference” on Friday. This year the conference will focus on family-based solutions to health challenges.
Also, the Utah Valley Global Health Group is sponsoring an informal dinner and discussion about child survival on May 28. RESULTS, a nonprofit grassroots advocacy organization committed to ending poverty, has a local chapter that meets regularly. In addition, versions of the U.S. Commitment to Global Child Survival Act of 2007 are currently being considered in the House and the Senate. Writing your senator or congressman can help.
We know what kills children, and we also know what works to save many of those lives. UNICEF’s 2008 “State of the World’s Children” declares, “The means are at hand. It is now a question of will and of action — for there is no enterprise more noble, or reward more precious than saving the life of a child.” We agree, and we hope you’ll join us. Details about all of the activities mentioned above can be found at https://globalhealth.wordpress.com. You can make a difference.