Utah Valley Global Health Group

A blog about global health for those living in Utah Valley and their friends.

Millions of Children Die Needlessly

Posted by chads on March 31, 2008

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.

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7 Responses to “Millions of Children Die Needlessly”

  1. […] Saving millions of children simply. 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 . . . […]

  2. Natalie Young said

    I think it’s so important to be aware of what is going on in the world. By simply ignoring it, the problem will only worsen. In Afghanistan every 30 minutes a women dies in child labor 75% of the infants left behind will die shortly after. We need to increase awareness of this global problem. I encourage everyone to get involved in their community. There are several NGO’s working hard to save this problem. What if it was your family member or child in danger, I’m sure you would do everything you can to help. These people need our help so that their children can survive these preventable diseases.

  3. Cami Rooney said

    Though I know that education is not always the fast or cost-effective option when it comes to global health and reaching “cures to all it’s aliments” but I feel very strongly that the education of the mother would greatly help. No mother, in her right mind, would ever want her child to suffer, let alone die. During the past year and a half living in Taiwan as a voluntary service missionary, I would often ask the question, “What is your greatest desire in life?” And 95% of the time the answer was, “For my children and family to be health, happy, and safe.” The other 5% would answer something having to do with having enough money with which to provide the above answer. Though the immediate outcomes of education are small, they pale in comparison to the long-term results and therefore this venture is definitely worth the time, money, and man-power needed to accomplish such a feat.

  4. chads said

    Seems true, Cami. I guess it depends on what you mean by education. If you mean traditional, classroom-based lecturing, I’m not sure that education would have much of an impact.

    If, on the other hand, you mean participatory interventions that lead to evidence-based, proven behavior change, then I agree 100%.

  5. Louise Donaldson said

    I think sometimes people become overwhelmed with the issue as a whole. Trying to grasp the concept of how many children really are suffering and dieing each day is sometimes overwhelming to people who see very little of it in their own lives. I think it is a very important issue to address and maybe it can be done on a more personal level. How do we as American citizens really make an impact? What can we do? This is a question I face myself and am trying to find my own answer to. I think one was we can make a difference is through donations and contributions, no matter how small, to programs or NGOs set up specifically in countries with high child and infant mortality rates. If we really think about it the small contributions of individuals really can and do add up.

    I also agree that education in a traditional formal setting does not always make the desired impact on what to do. So often it is shown that lay health workers and proven behavior change projects are able to reach mothers and families where formal education can not.

  6. chads said

    Louise,

    Very true! The numbers can be overwhelming. Here are a few quick thoughts how how an ordinary citizen can contribute:

    1. I agree that donating to NGOs/organizations. Having said that, I would recommend doing one’s homework beforehand; there are a fair number of NGOs that are not effective/efficient!

    2. It helps me to view some global health issues (child survival, AIDS, health systems) in the same light as other historical social justice issues (slavery, women’s suffrage, child labor). Those experiences provide hope that, yes, change is possible, as well as an example of how social change comes about.

    3. Depending on your political views, government activism is often an effective (and often frustrating) way to change. RESULTS (see sidebar on this website) is a group that meets regularly to support grassroots political activism.

  7. chads said

    Oh, and, of course, getting involved in organizations like the Utah Valley Global Health Group!

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