Since 1990, preventable deaths of children under five have dropped from over 12 million to 6.6 million!
Celebrate 5th birthdays with us this week as we renew our commitment to helping children live past the age of 5. Read how you can help!
In the United States, we often celebrate birthday milestones. A child's first birthday, a girl's Sweet Sixteen, and turning the big 4-0 are significant events that we celebrate with parties, cake, and balloons.
Did you know that a child’s 5th birthday is also a significant milestone? It’s a survival milestone. Children are most vulnerable in their early years, and their chances of surviving and thriving increase dramatically once they reach this key age. This is not a milestone we typically celebrate in the U.S., because most children have access to the health and nutrition they need to easily survive to five. However, in many other countries around the world, that is not the case.
I recently had the opportunity to travel to Kenya and visit the pediatric wing of a district hospital in Siaya County. This is the main health facility for hundreds of villages and communities when children are too sick to be treated for ailments at smaller facilities closer to home. We saw children suffering from malaria, malnutrition, diarrhea, and pneumonia. Children were lying lethargic on cots with their worried parents at their bedside. Many of these children were under the age of five. Some were clearly in distress and unlikely to survive.
As we spoke to the doctor and nurses, I couldn't help but think about how so many of the children were suffering from diseases that are 100% preventable. As I looked at the cracked ceilings, flimsy mattresses, and overworked staff, I couldn't help but think how age 5 is a dream for so many children and so often taken for granted here in the U.S.
But despite the challenges faced in places like Kenya, we know that we can make a difference and save the lives of these children. Since 1990, thanks to focused efforts of governments, international organizations, and the private sector, preventable deaths of children under five have fallen from over 12 million to 6.6 million.
This is tremendous progress that must be celebrated, but we must also renew our efforts to fight to save the life of every child. These lives are precious, and it's a tragedy that so many are still dying when we know how to prevent it.
World Vision is joining with USAID and other partners this Wednesday, June 25, to renew our commitment to helping children reach age five. You can help us raise awareness in some simple ways. First, change your Facebook profile picture to a photo of you at age five. Second, join World Vision's Beyond 5 advocacy network. And third, talk to your church and your friends about this issue.
My fifth birthday (photo above) was memorable – celebrating with my friends – and hitting this survival milestone helped me physically reach another birthday milestone this year: the big 4-0! Let's all take a little step to help give all children around the world the same chance to reach these birthday milestones and to hit a new, bigger milestone: ending preventable child deaths, once and for all.
Lisa Bos is World Vision’s Senior Policy Advisor for Health, Education, and WASH in Washington, D.C.
One of the most effective ways to help ensure that a child lives past his or her 5th birthday is through our child sponsorship program. Choose a child to sponsor today!