French first baby already a winner in the geographic lottery

Maybe you're like me: You have a sudden feeling of joy every time you hear of a baby being born, or a newly announced pregnant mother-to-be. Two months ago, I sat in the hospital, awaiting the birth of my new nephew, ready to hear the sweet melody of "Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star" that's played each time a baby is born.

It's the same feeling of joy I had earlier this week, hearing the announcement of the birth of the daughter of French President Nicolas Sarkozy and his wife, Carla Bruni-Sarkozy. I recall when we heard the wonderful news in May that the Sarkozys were expecting -- around the same time G8 leaders gathered in France to discuss issues of economic and global development.

At the time, my colleague, Geraldine Ryerson-Cruz, was in France, representing World Vision at the G8 Summit. While there, she hand-delivered a baby gift basket intended for the French first lady. The basket included everyday items readily available to women in Western European or North American pharmacies and grocery stores -- such as hygiene supplies, safe birthing kits, and nutritious foods -- that are often inaccessible to pregnant women living in poverty in developing countries.

In a press release yesterday from my colleagues, World Vision congratulates the Sarkozys on the newest addition to their family.

We also included some basic facts to remind G8 leader President Sarkozy of his daughter's fortune in the geographic lottery. That is, Baby Sarkozy is privileged to be born in France, where she is 43 times more likely to celebrate her fifth birthday than a baby born this year in the former French colony, Chad.

Of course, it's wonderful that newborns in Western countries like France have consistent access to basic care. But our goal is to extend this reality to children all over the world -- no matter where they're born.

Here are some of the other sobering facts that motivate us to act:

Victorine, 35, sits with her child in a refugee camp in northern Chad. ©2008 Ann Birch/World Vision

  • The chances of a baby's survival are based on country of birth. Carla Bruni-Sarkozy had a safe delivery; women in France are 150 times more likely to survive pregnancy and childbirth than women in Chad.
  • In France, malnutrition is virtually unheard of among young children. Meanwhile, Chad has one of the highest child mortality rates in the world, and little progress has been made in the past two decades.
  • Children in Chad are dying of ailments that are almost never fatal for French children -- like diarrhea, malaria, and pneumonia. In Chad, nearly half of children are malnourished, so they die of  illnesses that would otherwise be minor. Many of them could be saved simply with better nutrition.
  • Mothers in Chad lack advice and support during pregnancy and in the critical days following birth, meaning that many lose their lives. Carla Bruni-Sarkozy gave birth in a clinic with a doctor who specializes in childbirth and has access to expert advice for her child.
  • Chad has the second-highest maternal mortality rates worldwide. It’s estimated that 80 percent of these deaths could be prevented if women had access to simple interventions like better nutrition, emergency care, and a trained health worker during childbirth.

World leaders will meet together in France in two weeks for the G20 Summit, and I hope they use this opportunity both to welcome the youngest member of the Sarkozy family and remember the lives of so many other sons and daughters born around the world each day who won't have the same chance at life. G20 leaders should use their position of power to help tackle the global inequities in food security and healthcare that put so many children at risk.

Let's be clear -- the G20 has taken several promising steps toward this goal, and remarkable progress has been made. In the early 1960s, preventable child deaths exceeded 20 million per year. In 2011, that number is around 8.1 million.

World Vision hopes these leaders will go even further this year toward preventing child deaths in developing nations like Chad. No child should lose a chance at survival -- or a healthy, hopeful future -- simply because of where he or she was born.

Read the press release and related post, "Why care about the G8 Summit?"

The United States plays a vital role in reducing preventable child deaths worldwide. The International Affairs Budget is just 1.4 percent of the overall federal budget -- but it provides critical, life-saving assistance to fight child mortality in places like Chad. Contact your members of Congress today and ask them to oppose cuts to this account. There are few places in the federal budget where dollars translate so directly into lives saved.

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