Nothing is sadder than and child's death, for a parent or for a society. So why is it that they are so invisible to us in the US?
A recent review of childhood deaths shows that the number of deaths among children less than 5 will drop below 8 million for the first time in 2010. In 1990 there were 11.9 million deaths in this group. The decline in the US is slower than all other wealthy nations, it is on a par with Kazakhstan and Angola (really and literally) with 6.7 deaths per 1,000 live births with a ranking of 42nd in child mortality dropping even further back than it was in 1990 (30th).
Of the 7.7 million deaths projected for 2010 3.1 million will be in the first 27 days of life, 2.3 million between day 28 and 1 year and another 2.3 million between 1 through 4 years of age. Half will occur in sub-Sahara Africa, one third in south Asia and less than 1% in high-income countries.
The improvements that have occurred, most dramatically in sub-Sahara Africa, are likely due to immunizations, malaria prevention with insecticide treated bed nets and prevention of mother to child HIV transmission.
So why the stall in the US? A closer look close to home shows that infant mortality is highest in Native American children. Native people have higher unemployment, lower incomes and more difficult access to care. There have not been significant increases in funding for the Indian Health Service in over 15 years, while there has been 10 or greater inflation in healthcare costs and a quadrupling of the Native population. In infant and child mortality both race and income mater, they mater a great deal.
As we move forward into harder times there is likely going to be further magnification of the already existent health disparities between the haves and have nots, both globally and within the US. Real solidarity would be to stand with those who do not have access to the tools to prevent these childhood deaths. Why have we allowed 26,000 lbs of mercury to be put in to Bellingham Bay by GP and then the risks and clean up "sold" to the public. The $30 million to clean up the mess may seem like a lot but the actual costs of clean up could be as much as $300 million and now the the Port of Bellingham owns this mess it is significantly less likely to be thoroughly cleaned up. Learn more about this and speak out about it. This is one of many mechanisms where by injury is done to our local Native people. Mercury in Native women nationally is higher than what is safe for childbirth in 17% already. It is not known what the rate is locally, as there have been no tests done. But the consumption of fish, crabs and clams is an integral part of the diet of many Native people locally.
The Lancet article was authored by a group at the University of Washington in Seattle: