When the colors of life go out: A tribute to fallen children

“I decided to devote my life to telling the story because I felt that having survived I owe something to the dead, and anyone who does not remember betrays them again."
—Elie Wiesel, Holocaust survivor, author, and Nobel laureate

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I love happy stories, when the hero wins, the unlikely couple falls in love, or the outcast saves the day.

As a photojournalist for World Vision, I love telling stories about children’s lives being transformed and communities finding innovative solutions to decades-old problems.

But tragically, not all stories have happy endings. Not all communities rejoice. Not all children survive.

Before becoming a mom, I felt a lump in my throat whenever I sat in rural huts or busy clinics with parents whose children had died or were dying. But my grief was mistakenly tempered by my thought that “at least” they had other children.

However, now that I am a mom to one precocious, energetic little boy, I know that no two children are ever alike. Whether a parent has one child or 10, I now am certain that the loss of any one child would be absolutely devastating. Imagining the grief of these parents is nauseatingly heart-wrenching.

And yet, somebody’s baby got sick and died today -- more than 20,000 times.

  • In fact, 20,821 children under 5 die each day.
  • Some 7.6 million children under 5 die every year, most from preventable causes like severe malnutrition, pneumonia, and malaria.
  • More than 70 percent of child deaths occur within the first year of life.

I want to honor those children who have not survived -- those children my colleagues and I have been privileged to meet, who have shared their stories and their faces with us. I also want to honor their parents, who confided in us their fears of what might come, only to find later that their worst nightmare came true.

My colleague, Claudina Lembe, reflects on recovering from the loss of her own 6-month-old daughter to malaria: “Little by little, I came to appreciate the inner smile, all the colors of life, but there is always a pain that never goes away.”

As I enjoy the colors of life with my little boy, I also cannot forget that there is a pain that never goes away. I cannot forget the lives of children like Costa, Justina, Tsuma Ali, Luciana, Frederick, and Tipen. Please take a moment to remember them with me.

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This gravesite in Mozambique provides a reminder of the young lives that have been lost. (Andrea Peer/World Vision)

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Costa Eduardo, Mozambique: June 1999 - December 2009 (Andrea Peer/World Vision)

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Justina Sona, Mozambique: March 1998 - September 2009 (Andrea Peer/World Vision)

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Luciana Ngueve, Angola: 1999 - September 2005 (Kari Costanza/World Vision)

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Tsuma Ali, Kenya: 2006 - September 2008 (John Kabubu/World Vision)

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Tipen Elaar, Kenya: January 2010 - July 2011 (Lucy Murunga/World Vision)

For children in the developing world, the first five years are the most deadly. Join World Vision and help save the lives of 156,000 children under five this year. Let’s end the tragedy of preventable deaths.

Don’t let another child be lost.  Make a donation today to World Vision's Survive to Five™ Challenge. Any gift you give will triple in impact to help provide interventions that fight preventable causes of death among children under 5, such as severe malnutrition, malaria, pneumonia, and others.


    Thank you for sharing their pictures. It is a good reminder that they are not just a number or another statistic. These were little children who were loved and were supposed to live a long life. I pray we are mobilized to action and that these preventable diseases will be eradicated so no more children have to die like this.

    Thank You for showing this. It breaks my heart. Lord, please watch over "our" children and all of those who also need your protection. We need your power in this fight, only you can help these children. We need you; they need you. Amen.

    You're welcome, Holly. We're glad that these pictures are able to touch lives in America into action to help those who need it most. God bless, -Jonathan, WV staff

    Perfect little ones who couldn't stay, because the world was such an unkind place for them, and their parents, and so many more. One of 'my' children too was lost to malaria when he'd just turned 4 years old. Thank God, I can sponsor his little sister. He's growing up in Heaven, and so are they all, but the void they leave here can't be filled. How much better simply to share what we have and help them into healthy strong life.

    Thank you for putting your heart into this and developing the whole picture of what is going on in our world.

    Thanks for that encouragement, Susie. Our prayer is that people will understand and be engaged to end the root causes of poverty. Glad you're on board! -Jonathan, WV staff


    Thank you for sharing their pictures and what you are doing

    It is up to us to help, we are His hands here on the earth. Jesus said we are the salt of the earth(salt is a preservative) and the light of the earth. May these pictures be etched so in our minds that we are moved into action. Here in the US people are dying of obesity, too much food because we have become a society that thinks we must consume everything we have, isn't that GREED. Oh I pray that all who see these faces will be moved into action- write a check, show someone this website, tell others we can make a difference if we act!

    I'm so sad seeing those children, it makes my heart cry..

    Yes lots of child are being dead allover the world. but we all are crying for those fame peoples who eat and enjoyed life while they are alive and no pain they face in the world. this little children who have no one to Speak for are dieing for the sin they ever commit. yes Innocent child is being dieing what we are doing to change the story MATTERS?

    we ar the super power of the world, their is no need for no one to go without food ar shetter, it,s their government that makes them suffer, it needs to stop, it s up to organzations like this to make them stop, and the government needs to make them stop as well,, until the government steps up to the bat,,their nothing no one can do, its a loseing battle,,,no need for this,

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