My good friends Nick and Liz have a daughter. Her name is Grace, and last weekend we all gathered in their backyard to celebrate her First Birthday Party. It was a beautiful day, lovely weather, too much food to eat, and many friends (old and new) to mingle with.
You can see from the photo that her friend Tiffany perhaps enjoyed it more than anyone, while she eyed off the birthday cake. I imagine she was thinking: ‘If everyone is looking the other way, would anyone notice if I just had a little taste of this cake before it was cut?’
Most of us have been to this sort of party before. Many of you will be parents who have had the pleasure and privilege to celebrate this occasion for your own child or children.
Such a stark contrast with other countries that for one reason or another don’t make it onto the radar of what gets printed in our newspapers. It is a tragedy unfolding every day.
We live like royalty in comparison. Even with problems we all encounter: the boss is a jerk, coffee was too bitter, missed the 7.05 bus, caught in a traffic jam for 45 minutes this morning.
Here is some food for thought. I hope this brings some perspective as to why I am about to run 10 sub-marathons each of 24 km in 10 cities across 10 countries all inside of one month. To open a conversation asking how might we use our networks to alleviate child mortality. Consider these facts:
- About half of under-five deaths occur in only five countries:India, Nigeria, Democratic Republic of Congo, Pakistan, and China.
- India (24%) and Nigeria (11%) together account for more than a third of all under-five deaths.
- The highest rates of child mortality remain in sub-Saharan Africa where 1 in 9 children dies before the age of 5. That is more than 16 times the average for developed regional (1 in 152).
- By 2050, 1 in 3 children will be born in Sub-Saharan Africa, and almost 1 in 3 will live there, so the global number of under-five deaths may stagnate or even increase without more progress in the region.
- The proportion of under-five deaths that occur within the first month of life (called the ‘neonatal’ period) has increased 17% since 1990, from 36% to about 43%. This is because progress in reducing the neonatal mortality is slower than that in the mortality for older children.
- Almost 30% of neonatal deaths occur in India.
- Sub-Saharan Africa has the highest risk of death in the first month of life and is among the regions showing the least progress.
- Historical trends show that for most countries progress has been too slow and that only 15 of the 66 countries with a high under-five mortality rate (at least 40 deaths per 1,000 births) are on track to achieve Millennium Development Goal 4.
This information is taken from the 2012 Report Levels and Trends in Child Mortality developed by the UN Inter-agency Group for Child Mortality Estimation published in 2012.
There is some good news. Sub-Saharan Africa has in the last decade seen a faster decline in its under-five mortality rate, with the annual rate of reduction doubling since the decade before. We are making progress, much work attention is needed, and now.
Happy birthday, Grace.