Children and Poverty
The world is home to 2.2 billion children. Children in developing countries face often deadly complications in their early years as a result of poor healthcare. Child Mortality is the number of children who die by the age of five out of every thousand live births. Malnutrition, malaria, diarrhoea and pneumonia are some of the major causes of death and everyday struggles children face in the developing world. The UN stated in 2007 that children in developing countries are thirteen times more likely to die in the first five years of life than those in developed countries. About 21,000 young children die every day, mainly from preventable causes. There is good news however - In 2010, this figure fell 6% from 2009.
Today, more than 21,000 children will die from a preventable cause. It has different names – malnutrition, diarrhoea, pneumonia, malaria, and HIV/AIDS – but the cause is the same: poverty.
Millions of children, particularly in Africa and Asia, lack access to proper nutrition, health-care services, education, clean water, sanitation and adequate shelter. They are also vulnerable to the worst forms of child labour, trafficking, armed conflict, slavery and sexual exploitation. Because poverty tends to be intergenerational, focusing on children’s rights and reducing child poverty is important in breaking the cycle of poverty for future generations.
Child mortality is closely linked to poverty. Advances in infant and child survival have come more slowly in poor countries and also to the poorest people in wealthier countries. Improvements in public health services are essential, including safe water and better sanitation. Education, especially for girls and mothers, will also save children's lives. Improvements in income help, but little will be achieved unless a greater effort is made to ensure that services to improve child health reach those who need them most.
In 2011, million children born alive across the world died before their fifth birthday, a total of 1 in 61. Most of these children lived in developing countries and died from a disease or a combination of diseases that could easily have been prevented or treated; for example, pneumonia can be treated with antibiotics and diarrhoea can be treated with a simple mix of water, salt and sugar.
Malnutrition contributes to over a third of these deaths and is also responsible for impaired intellectual development, hindering children’s prospects for the future. Nutrient supplements and encouraging breastfeeding in women strengthens children and is also one of the most effective ways of reducing their vulnerability to disease. Expanding educational opportunities to mothers is also essential for improving children’s survival and development. Educated women are less likely to die in childbirth and more likely to provide adequate nutrition and sanitation to their children and send them to school.
Nutrient supplements and encouraging breastfeeding in women strengthens children and is also one of the most effective ways of reducing their vulnerability to disease. Expanding educational opportunities to mothers is also essential for improving children’s survival and development. Educated women are less likely to die in childbirth and more likely to provide adequate nutrition and sanitation to their children and send them to school.
2 million children under five die of diarrhoea each year and one child dies every 5 seconds as a result of hunger, contributing to over 60% of all child deaths2. In today’s world with such extremes of wealth, one wonders why we are faced with such horrific figures. Although much is being done to combat these gross numbers, a greater effort is required to eradicate these problems.
Despite a 21% decrease overall in the developing world between 1990 and 2006, malnutrition affects 26% of children under five (and as much as 46% in Southern Asia). The cause of a third of under-five deaths, malnutrition makes it very difficult for a child to fend off disease.
Children and the MDGs
The Mlillenium Goals set out to reduce child deaths among the world's poorest communities. The global rate to be reached by 2015 is 31 per 1,000 live births. Close to 60 per cent of countries have already reduced child mortality to this level and most countries (130) are on track to achieve MDG 4, but we are still faced by many challenges.
Existing low-cost, low technology and high impact interventions such as vaccines, antibiotics, micronutrient supplementation, insecticide-treated bednets, improved breastfeeding practices and adoption of safe hygiene practices can prevent unnecessary maternal and child deaths and reduce under nutrition.
By packaging services and implementing at scale, high impact and evidence-based maternal, newborn and child survival interventions, we can save millions of lives. By ensuring that all children have access to basic education and by focusing on children marginalized by poverty, HIV/AIDS, conflict and discrimination, we can break the cycle of poverty that keeps children on the brink of survival.
What are we doing?
Through community outreach, supervision, training, and data collection and monitoring, massive immunisation campaigns have reached vast numbers of children. Immunisation is critically important to the developing world as preventable diseases have an enormous impact on many communities. UNICEF has helped Afghanistan, India, Nepal and Pakistan train female volunteers to administer polio vaccines and promote immunisation against maternal and child tetanus.
Many countries and organisations have been putting forward funds through aid in many areas they believe need the most help. Recently Japan has donated $3.7 million to help eradicate polio in Egypt and the European Commission donated 10 million pounds to the UN for the relief of Zimbabwean children.
Case Study: Malawi
A Global Poverty Project volunteer recently arrived back from a six month stay in Africa. This following story is from Malawi in eastern Africa.
Hawa Ndilowe, Malawi's ambassador to the United States explains the efforts that the country has undertaken to decrease child mortality rates. Ambassador Ndilowe remains hopeful that Malawi will get a handle on child mortality by having a National Health plan and a clear direction and knowing what is required. Ndilowe says, “What is important is to know the problem and address it.”
Substantial progress has been made towards reducing child mortality (Millennium Development Goal 4). In 2009 nearly 12,000 fewer children died every day than in 1990. Through community outreach, training and monitoring, large-scale immunisation campaigns have reached vast numbers of children and combated several major childhood diseases. Polio is close to eradication and child deaths from measles declined by 74 per cent globally between 2000 and 2007.