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What kills our children

Flickr, Anthony J

I have a niece back home that I don’t get to see too often – which breaks my heart at times. Luckily, my sister and brother-in-law set up a shared album where they keep posting pictures of her and her daily tasks (throwing TV remote in toilet, washing kitchen floor with a piece of tomato or dressing her fingers with macaroni) . I think about her a lot and I know that she’ll probably have the happiest, healthiest life possible because she lives in a nation that can afford to protect its children. A nation that makes sure kids eat, sleep and grow properly. But not very child has this luxury. In 2012, 6.6 million children died before reaching their fifth birthday. Almost all (99%) of these deaths occurred in low- and middle-income countries. This is hard to fathom--what actually causes all these unfair, unnecessary deaths?


Afghanistan has the second highest rate of under-five mortality in the world, with thousands of children dying every year. One of out of four children born in Afghanistan don’t even make it to 5. 55% of Afghan children under the age of 5 cannot develop physically or mentally, as they should, because of chronic nutritional deficiency. Meanwhile, one in every two Afghan children is malnourished and an estimated 40% of children die from diarrhea and acute respiratory infections. Clean water and adequate sanitation facilities are also in short supply. Only 13% of the population has access to safe drinking water and 12% to adequate sanitation facilities.

dia.pngImage: Flickr, Feed My Starving Children (FMSC)


Today, only 2 countries (Afghanistan and Pakistan) remain polio-endemic, down from more than 125 in 1988. Polio is a highly infectious disease caused by a virus. It invades the nervous system, and can cause total paralysis in a matter of hours. The virus is often transmitted by contaminated water. Initial symptoms are fever, fatigue, headache, vomiting, stiffness of the neck and pain in the limbs. One in 200 infections leads to irreversible paralysis (usually in the legs). Among those paralyzed, 5% to 10% die when their breathing muscles become immobilized. Polio cannot be cured, only prevented through vaccination.

boy.jpgImage: Flickr, UNICEF Ethiopia


Measles killed over 500,000 children in 2003, which is more than any other vaccine-preventable disease. 500,000 children DIED from something that we have a vaccine for. In parts of Africa, the death toll is so high that many mothers don’t even name their children who have measles until they survive. In the continent of Africa, one child dies from measles every minute. The children who are lucky enough to survive in these areas may suffer blindness, deafness or brain damage. In 2013, measles killed more kids than car accidents or AIDS. According to the World Health Organization, it costs about a dollar to immunize a child against measles. Shouldn’t the world be spending that dollar?

baby.pngImage: Flickr, UNICEF Bangladesh


Every minute, a child dies from malaria. In 2013, 90% of the world’s malaria deaths occurred in Africa and over 430,000 African children died before their fifth birthdays. When I was a kid, I hated mosquitos but I never at risk of dying. Vector control is the main way to prevent and reduce malaria transmission. Vector control is any method to limit or eradicate the mammals, birds, insects or other arthropods which transmit disease pathogens. The most frequent type of vector control is mosquito control using a variety of strategies.If this method is common enough in an area, then communities are largely protected.

malaria.jpgImage: Flickr, Novartis AG


Drowning is the 3rd leading cause of unintentional injury death worldwide, accounting for 7% of all injury-related deaths. We have all seen the pictures of the little Syrian boy, Alan Kurdi, who drowned on his way to Europe. Globally, the highest drowning rates are among children 1-4 years, followed by children 5-9 years. Deaths due to drowning can be found in all economies and regions. However, low- and middle-income countries account for 91% of unintentional drowning deaths. Over half of the world's drowning occurs in the Western Pacific Region and South-East Asia Region. Ultimately, drowning death rates are highest in the WHO African Region, where they are 10-13 times higher than those seen in the United Kingdom or Germany.

swimming.pngImage: Flickr, Toni Ahvenainen


In August, a 21 month old baby shot himself by mistake in St. Louis. An average of seven children and teens under the age of 20 are killed by guns every day in America. American children are nine times more likely to die in gun accidents than children anywhere else in the developed world. Unsafe access to guns is a leading cause of death among children and teens. A death that can be so easily avoided if stricter gun laws are enacted. In a perfect world, there’d be no guns at all!

gun.pngImage: Flickr, Paulo Alegria

According to Vice, guns will probably kill more young Americans than car accidents will in 2015. 112,375 infants, children, and teens were killed by firearms between 1981 and 2010, which is 25,000 more deaths than soldiers killed in the Vietnam, Korea, Iraq, and Afghanistan wars combined, according to the National Association of School Psychologists.

Shouldn’t countries be protecting their children, rather than their guns?

All these deaths can be either be prevented or curbed.

There are vaccines, there are ways to change laws and education can be used. Every child should get to see his or her 5th birthday. Every child should be able to grow up into adulthood without being killed from the most easily preventable issues. The world has the means, the world has the money and the world has the knowledge. It is time that the leaders around the world stop these deaths from happening and make sure that every child gets to live a long, healthy life.

Help spread the word about child mortality and raise awareness on these important issues so that change can happen. Support SOS Children’s Village, let your politicians know about the gun issues and help us increase the access to vaccines worldwide.

Also, go to TAKE ACTION NOW to call on countries everywhere to ensure universal vaccination.