(c) Ariel Waldman 2009 CC Share Alike

In the year 2000 world leaders at the United Nations adopted the Millennium Development Goals. In doing so they stated:

We recognize that, in addition to our separate responsibilities to our individual societies, we have a collective responsibility to uphold the principles of human dignity, equality and equity at the global level. As leaders we have a duty therefore to all the world’s people, especially the most vulnerable and, in particular, the children of the world, to whom the future belongs. [1]


11. We will spare no effort to free our fellow men, women and children from the abject and dehumanizing conditions of extreme poverty, to which more than a billion of them are currently subjected. We are committed to making the right to development a reality for everyone and to freeing the entire human race from want. [2]

When children are thought of and treated as “foreigners” millions of them are denied the benefit of these promises.

In today’s world however 11,000,000 children under the age of 5 die each year from preventable causes such as malaria, malnutrition and lack of access to medical services. In percentage terms the rate of death in some countries can be as high as 20%.

This situation should be recognised as a global crisis requiring immediate action. It is not. Whereas among our own nationals such a situation would be intolerable, among foreigners we fail to see it as our responsibility. This failure to acknowledge responsibility, as world leaders did in 2000, leads to a failure to respond adequately. Issues such as the world food crisis, or war, or other causes which inflict death on a enormous scale, briefly rise to consciousness and then disappear, while we focus on problems which affect “us”.

Children of the global south are in addition exposed to poverty, in many countries war or exploitation.

Nonetheless, the reduction of child mortality in developed countries over the course of a century underlines that exactly the same outcomes are possible in the entire globe. The world has set goals to reduce child mortality. While some progress is being made, the target will be missed and in the 15 year period the death toll among children under 5 will be in the order of 150,000,000. This situation represents a moral question that calls into question the most basic claims we make to being a civilised and enlightened society.


Rethink required to reduce child mortality in developing countries

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