I knew today was going to be a bit of a challenge. Me, a ‘spare-timer’, going into an environment of development professionals. So although I was prepared I did feel I needed to reassure myself of the child mortality figures one more time. How bad is it really? How do the mortality rates in Africa compare with those here?
I got up early and reassurance wasn’t long in coming – a Google search on ‘child mortality in the UK’ was all it took to find this BBC article. This reported “Child mortality ‘at record low'”. Which strictly speaking is correct. In 2006, the global total number of deaths before the age of five had dipped below the 10 million mark for the first time. But just look at the breakdown of the figures:
Over a 16 year period (1990 to 2006) the total number of annual deaths had INCREASED by 1 million a year (700,000 + 100,000 + 500,000 – 300,000).
Despite this increase the mortality rate had decreased slightly but, in Africa, is still between 13 and 18%. Can you imagine living in an environment where this happened? If you ran a livestock enterprise in Europe, these levels of mortality would be unacceptable and these are human beings and these deaths are described as ‘avoidable’.
So, while I agreed with a lot of what was said today about encouraging good governance; re-establishing accountability between African people and their leaders (where this doesn’t exist); stopping the flight of capital into tax havens; removing the barriers to trade etc etc. We can’t just sit wait another 20 years without trying to do something to stop this horrendous death toll amongst children. Can we?