Fast facts on child health

I’m at that phase in life when a lot of my friends are having babies. Within six weeks, I will have gone to three baby showers! I’m thinking about how many prenatal doctor appointments women have in the United States -- and how many checkups and appointments most newborns have in their first year of life.

But what if there was no doctor to visit? No hospital or nearby clinic? No family doctor or trained midwife?

What would happen? Maternal and child mortality rates would go up.

Did you know?

  1. Nearly 1 billion people worldwide will never get to visit a health worker for care.* About one-third of those people are children.
  2. Countries with more health workers have lower rates of child mortality. A child in a country with sufficient midwives, nurses, and doctors is five times more likely to reach the age of 5 than one in a country facing a critical shortage.
  3. In the United States, we have 125 health workers per 10,000 people -- over five times the World Health Organization (WHO) minimum threshold. Many European countries have even higher ratios.
  4. In Somalia, where one in five children dies before the age of 5, there are just 1.5 health workers per 10,000 people.

For Nomsa, the issue of child health is very real — of the 10 children to whom she gave birth, only five have survived.

I know those are a lot of numbers -- and they kind of make my eyes glaze over -- but I keep thinking about this: What if I was one of the statistics? What if I had a newborn who died because I couldn’t get her to a doctor?

This is the case for many mothers I’ve met in developing countries. I’m especially thinking about Nomsa, a mom I met in Swaziland who gave birth to 10 children -- and five of them died!

What can we do about these problems?

  • Train proper birth attendants: Some 1.3 million newborn babies every year would be saved by training 350,000 midwives and having a health worker with midwifery skills present at every birth.
  • Plan for the future: When international aid money fluctuates around annual budget cycles, countries can’t plan for the future with long-term projects like recruiting and training a health workforce.
  • Support development assistance: Though the United States is the largest donor by volume of official development assistance, we lag behind other donor nations when you measure this as a percentage of our gross national income. The United States gives just 0.21 percent, short of the international target of 0.7 percent.

*All facts and figures in this post are taken from our report on global health workers (pdf), compiled by World Vision as part of our Child Health Now campaign.

Read more about the Child Health Now campaign, World Vision's global initiative to end preventable deaths of children under 5.

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