How many children make it to their fifth birthday in Ethiopia?
This is not an easy question for a person like me. I am a mother of one son. If someone asks me what my best wishes for my son are, I’ll list dozens of plans. Most of all, I want him to grow healthy, strong and happy, and become a big boy. I believe this is what all mothers wish for their newborns – to see their baby grow healthy and play like other children they see around them. I can’t imagine a single mother who would want to see her baby suffer from a preventable disease and die – not anywhere in the world.
However, reports show us that 50,000 children in Africa die before their fifth birthday. These children die from preventable or curable diseases such as diarrhoea, pneumonia and malnutrition. Does this number seem exaggerated? 50,000? Well, it’s not.
Celebrating the Day of the African Child opened a discussion on child mortality in the Ethiopian media. The issue became a hot discussion point. On one of the FM radio stations, I heard a child being interviewed saying that he would have wanted to see his little sister go to school with him. He said that she used to cough before she ‘slept for a long time.’ He didn’t see her again. Did she die of pneumonia? Isn’t that curable? What happened to his parents or mother? Did she take her daughter to hospital? If not, why not? These are the questions people like me could have asked him. If he’d been able to answer our questions, we would have heard about a lack of access to health posts, lack of proper medication, parents having no money to pay for medicines or to buy food for their children…
We believe these deaths are preventable and we’re opting to meet the Millennium Development Goal on the ‘welfare and safety of African child’. Some African leaders are also showing a commitment to meeting these goals.
Although the problem is huge, we’re gathering our efforts to save more lives. However, the reality on the ground requires strong faith in the above mentioned vision. Children are still dying, at home, on the streets and at health centres before celebrating their fifth birthday – 50, 000 of them. That is what we see during our visits to families, even close to where I live.