A 5th Birthday Party Should Not Be A Luxury

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Districts of East Timor after reformation of t...
Timor Leste

On Tuesday I heard two talks which supported the International Women’s Development Agency, or better known by its acronym IWDA.

Rosaria Martin da Cruz from HIAM Health in Timor Leste spoke at both events. She is an articulate woman who was able to paint a picture of life in Timor Leste, and how that was so different to what people might experience in Australia.

The first talk was a lunchtime gathering- it was small and intimate, and really showed the benefits and strengths to be found in partnerships.

The second event was an evening gathering which was well stage-managed and more a series of well connected sound bites presented from World Vision. I preferred the intimacy of the lunchtime discussion.

Some speakers at the evening gathering made some excellent points, and spoke from the heart. Questions around why are the most vulnerable forgotten. Questions asking us what we were going to do about it.

The global figures for child mortality were appropriately described as “a shocking violation of childrens’ rights” by Louise Baur, Professor and Deputy Associate Dean of Paediatrics and Child Health at The University of Sydney. “We all have a more responsibility to help”.

Michael Dibley, the Associate Professor in International Public Health at The University of Sydney argued that children are the living messages to be sent forth to the next generation. A really important point.

The Governor of New South Wales, Her Excellency Professor Marie Bashir who is also the Chancellor of The University of Sydney spoke strongly “in her capacity not only as Chancellor, Governor, medical professional, but also mother and grandmother”. She argued that experiencing a fifth birthday party in Australia was not a luxury, but was so for too many children particularly in Africa.

Even looking at the child mortality figures between Timor Leste and Australia shows how unacceptable this huge gap really is: 97 deaths per 1,000 children under the age of five in Timor Lester compared with a ratio of less than 5 deaths per 1,000 children in Australia.

We need to build bridges to become better informed. These bridges will help to close this gap in small ways by increasing our awareness and our capacity to act. Money alone is not the answer.

The Governor went on to make some startling comparisons:

When you consider that over 6 million children die each year from pnuemonia and diarrhoea, diseases we readily have the prevention for, the cost of which is less than a postage stamp per child, how can we continue to make 5th birthday parties an occasion to be a luxury for only some to enjoy?

Consider that Harry Potter books have been translated into 67 languages, yet we still lack the ability to distribute oral hydration- are our priorities wrong? Do those people not count?!

Her summary? A blunt and disappointed observation: “Not good enough.”



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