When news of the Royal Baby’s birth broke on Monday, I was listening to Anthony Lake, executive director of UNICEF, talking about the 6.9 million children who die before their fifth birthday. As a proud uncle of an energetic and adorable little five-year-old, I couldn’t help but feel my heartstrings struck by the thought of having missed any of these amazing past few years–or the thought of not having any more years to look forward to.
No doubt the young Prince George Alexander Louis will receive the premier healthcare in the world and all the love any child could need or ever want, but for many children whose faces will never grace the front page of international news, this future is a dream yet to be imagined–and their present suffering is a nightmare for all of us.
Thirty years ago, 14 million children under five died every year. That’s the equivalent of an entire Holocaust of young children every year. Today this number has been halved to 6.9 million children ever year–but should we celebrate 6.9 million children’s deaths every year? That’s like all the Jews killed during the Holocaust being killed again every year.
These numbers are astronomical and hard to visualize. Take a minute and count the children close to you. I’ve got my two nieces, the seven children I met and played with in Belize, the thirty or so kids I taught at Beth David Religious School–I’m not even at fifty.
What about you?
Now imagine if each of these children died this year. Hold onto that thought, because if you barely reach fifty like me, you haven’t even dented the numbers yet.
Now imagine them dying every year.
The killers aren’t wars like you might imagine–they’re preventable diseases like pneumonia and diarrhea. In the U.S., I didn’t even know diarrhea could kill you–but it can, and it does.
UNICEF was a key player in ending over 7 million preventable child deaths each year, but we need to keep moving forward if we’re ever going to see the end of these millions of deaths–thankfully, UNICEF’s not easing up on the reigns. Another group fighting to end childhood deaths is the GAVI Alliance, delivering life-saving vaccines to children worldwide. And there are others–many others–but these groups cannot do it alone.
We must also join this fight.
Learn about the issues. Google them. If you’re in the U.S., urge you representatives to sign House Resolution 254: Scaling Up Nutrition for Child Health, a bipartisan effort to safeguard children during their first 1000 days of critical growth and development. If you live elsewhere, contact your legislators and let them know about UNICEF and GAVI and the 6.9 million children still dying worldwide every year. Volunteer in your community. Join a RESULTS group. Watch documentaries and TED Talks. Share this post.
Don’t just sit here and do nothing.
Nobody’s putting Royal Baby in the corner. Let’s not leave any other children there either.