In 2000, world leaders adopted a series of ambitious goals–the United Nations Millennium Development Goals (MDGs)–including commitments to cut poverty by half, get every child into school, and dramatically reduce child and maternal deaths by 2015.
When I had my last child in 1999, I was stricken with Strep A, a blood infection that rocked my world in a very dramatic and frightening way. For weeks afterward, I lived with a picc line in my arm and intense fatigue that left me barely awake enough to nurse my son, number five in the family line. We also discovered a few hours after my son was born, that he had a club foot. So while dealing with the Strep A diagnosis, we were also researching orthopedic surgeons.
Though nerve-wracking, my husband and I were grateful for the quality of care afforded us, and the ability to take the necessary steps to heal both of us. We were certainly worried, but never once did it occur to us that our child might die—at least until he was 10 months old and had a very severe febrile seizure that landed him in critical care. Even then, we were surrounded by a skilled medical staff who knew how to handle worst case scenarios, just as we had been when our second child was stricken with RSV during infancy.
That was another very scary time, but again, we were privy to excellent medical care—a circumstance not always the case for many women living in poverty both in the U.S. and around the world where child and maternal deaths are a serious problem. This is especially true in less developed nations where 18,000 children die each day from preventable causes and one million newborns die on their first day of life.
With five children, you can bet that I have seen my fair share of medical issues, all of the above plus scoliosis and borderline mental retardation in my eldest. The latter sound a lot worse on paper than in real life, but my point is that without access to top surgeons, psychologists, educational institutions, medicine, et al, my children’s lives may have turned out very differently. If anyone appreciates living in a region of medical abundance—and near genius—it’s me. Which is why I feel strongly about building awareness of Save the Children’s campaign to end preventable child deaths and Social Good Moms collaborative mission to post each day leading up to 500 Days to MDGs.
I’ve only just begun learning about these initiatives myself, but now, knowing the facts, my already high appreciation for having five healthy kids has soared. Anyone who’s been keeping up with current events is well aware that children everywhere are suffering from the impact of poverty, natural disasters, war, neglect, abuse and illness. While some may get on a soapbox about overpopulation, the fact remains that humans procreate whether intentionally or not and the children they bring into the world do not deserve to live—or die—in such horrific, and often preventable circumstances.
Thankfully, many of our world leaders agree: 14 years ago they adopted a series of goals now known as the United Nations Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). This ambitious initiative included commitments to cut poverty by half, get every child into school, and dramatically reduce child and maternal deaths by 2015. Recent data has shown a significant drop—millions fewer—in the number of people living in extreme poverty than a generation ago, and that most children are completing a primary education. Findings also reveal that global hunger has been cut by over a third and that there are 90 million people living today whose lives would have been cut short, had child mortality rates remained at 1990 levels, the baseline year for the initial MDGs.
However, that does not diminish the need for for more trained and skilled health workers, particularly in light of the startling number of newborn deaths, which account for 4 out of 5 deaths of children under the age of five.
Unless we urgently start to tackle newborn deaths, there is a real danger that progress in reducing child deaths could stall and we will fail in our ambition to be the generation that can end all preventable child deaths.
With 500 days to go before the target date, it is vital that the world acts to make sure more countries can get on-track to achieve MDG4-the reduction of preventable child deaths by two thirds by 2015.
Here are the facts:
- Each day an estimated 800 mothers and 18,000 young children die from largely preventable causes.
- More than 1 million babies die on their first and only day of life across the world, and 2.9 million in their first month.
- The newborn crisis is much bigger than we may think, with a staggering 1.2 million stillbirths occurring during childbirth
- More than half of these maternal and under-fives deaths take place in locations beset by a high risk of conflict and/or natural disasters.
- 40 million women give birth without any skilled help—that’s more than 100,000 women every day. Even more dramatically, 2 million women a year are entirely alone when giving birth.
- Investing in mothers works. Maternal deaths and child mortality in the most challenging countries of the world are being dramatically cut when efforts are made to improve services for mothers and children.
- Preventable: We can stop this. Many of these deaths are preventable if the mother-to-be had a trained midwife to help them give birth safely
- Equality: Newborn mortality rates can only be reduced through fairer distribution of essential health services and through universal healthcare access; this means making these more available to the poorest and most marginalized families, as well as to communities living in rural areas.
What can you do to help? It’s simple. Learn the facts, spread the word. Help save children’s lives.