Parenting Social Issues

Poorest Children in Urban Areas are at Least Twice as Likely to Die Before Their 5th Birthday: What you can do about it

Photo courtesy of www.DrinkAndSmile. Taken in Haiti
Photo courtesy of http://www.DrinkAndSmile. Taken in Haiti

My wife and I are expecting our fourth child soon. And like our last 3, this baby has had no say in its immediate future. The baby did not ask to be a part of this world. This baby will come into the world without any knowledge or internal hope beyond knowing the sounds of her mom and dad’s voice. Much like every baby that has ever taken a breath. When this baby comes into the world crying and kicking her tiny legs, my wife and I will care for our baby. Because we can. Similar to the way my wife and I were brought into the world; we came without a say in where we would go and who would take care of us.

But what about those babies, who through no fault of their own find themselves in the worst possible situations? Without proper nourishment and health care and deep in the midst of poverty. A report released by Save the Children on the State of the World’s Mothers shows that the hardest place to raise a child is in an urban slum. More specifically, the hardest place to be a mother is in the slums. I witnessed this first hand several years ago while traveling by the various shanty towns in South Africa. Near tin rickety homes within arms-length of each other and as far as I could see, children played together or leaned against their mothers. And with a limited and filthy water source, diseases spread quickly and often. I saw the same thing in Haiti and met people living in poverty stricken areas with little hope for a bright future. The story was similar in Mexico, where I visited an orphanage and heard of mothers who, with great pain, left their children to be raised by others because they didn’t know how they would feed them.

Lucky you, huh? Again, through no fault of these mothers and their children, they are being forced to live in a world without vaccinations, vitamins, pre-natal visits, adequate food, and drinking water – often times under the shadows of larger prosperous cities. And within these shadows, according to the report, the “poorest children living in urban areas are at least twice as likely to die before their fifth birthday.” I type this as my 3 year old plays around my feet. Lucky us.

The report lists many countries where mothers and children are struggling in poor urban areas, such as Bangladesh, Cambodia, Ghana, India, Kenya, Madagascar, Nigeria, Peru, Rwanda, Vietnam and Zimbabwe. Lest you think that this is an “other” world problem, though, the United States joins these countries where mothers and children are suffering. 25 capital cities were profiled in the report and Washington D.C ranked at the top of the list with “highest infant mortality rate at 6.6 deaths per 1,000 live births in 2013.” DC wasn’t the highest though in the United States. In 2011, Cleveland and Detroit ranked highest with a mortality of rate of 14.1 and 12.4.

It’s time to stand up for the children of the world. In an age of superhero movies, we celebrate our fictional heroes for standing up against a foe that attacks a city or the world. We all have a foe, whether you live in an area where you have access to proper medical treatments, nutrition, and clean water or live in the worst slums in the world. We all have a duty to protect the innocent.

Let me be clear, this is not just a women’s issue – it’s a human issue. And dads should step up to the plate on this one.  Dads have been stepping up to be more involved in their family’s lives; now it is time to step up for moms and children everywhere.

But how? What can the average dad do to address the dire need mothers and children are facing? Start by reading the report (and this post does not begin to do it justice). And then after that, take action by supporting a bi-partisan bill that was introduced by Senator Chris Coons (D-Del.) that will help newborns and mothers in poor rural areas with cost-effective interventions. Think about how you spend your money and support organizations that are taking the lead on these issues.  And don’t turn a blind eye to what’s going on in your own backyard.


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