TO BE A CHILD IN EXTREME POVERTY IS TO LIVE A LIFE FILLED WITH DANGER.
It is heartbreaking for anyone to have to live under the severe conditions of extreme poverty, but it is especially tragic when so many children have to struggle against death every day of their lives. Instead of the joys of childhood they have to face hunger, illness, disease, and war. They become orphans at an alarming rate. They are often forced to become refugees with no permanent home. They suffer continually and then they die young……It is unforgivable that the wealthy nations of the world allow this to occur. We would never let it happen to our children.
Our kids have the best of everything. They are not dying of hunger, they suffer from childhood obesity. They are not living without permanent shelter, they live in 2,000 square foot homes filled with every modern convenience. The only war our children are exposed to is in the video games they play by the hour. They don’t spend the day begging, they hang out at the mall. They are given every opportunity to lead a comfortable and easy life. In fact, we spoil them to the point where they only think of themselves so they grow up to be selfish adults which continues the generational cycle of indifference.
Unfortunately, in extreme poverty one of the most dangerous times in the life of a child is during its birth. With no pre-natal care, and no medical attention at the time of delivery, the risk to both mother and child is severe. Each year more than 3,000,000 newborns die within twenty-eight days of birth. Millions more suffer from infection, disease and disabilities. In developing nations more than 16% of newborns have a low birth rate, which makes them 20 times more likely to die in infancy. If the mother should die during delivery her child is 10 times more likely to die before the age of five than a child who has not lost their mother. Each year maternal death leaves 1,000,000 children motherless. What should be one of life’s most blessed events too often turns into heartbreak.
If a child does survive the delivery they have a dangerous road ahead of them. They face the very real threat of starvation, and even if they don’t actually die from hunger the effects of malnutrition take an enormous toll on their overall health. Their ability to learn is effected. Their immune system is weakened making them more susceptible to illness and disease. They are simply not able to develop at the same rate as a healthy child. Each year 6,570,000 children needlessly die from hunger related issues in a world where there is plenty of food. 18,000 children, most under the age of five, dying from hunger every day is an atrocity that cannot be tolerated.
In fact, being under the age of five in extreme poverty makes you vulnerable to a wide range of horrors. Because a child’s body is still developing they don’t have the same level of resistance as that of an adult, and if they are weakened by hunger they are even more at risk. Everything from malaria to measles can kill them. Simple illnesses that we take an antibiotic for can kill thousands of children in a few weeks. Improper sanitation and a lack of clean water are breeding grounds for a whole host of diseases that prey on the young.
Too often being a child in extreme poverty means attempting to deal with all of these problems alone. HIV/AIDS has left behind 15 million orphans. These children live in desperate situations. When they are sick or hungry they have nowhere to turn. They not only suffer physically but also emotionally. They are deprived of the single most important thing a human being needs: love. To face the life and death struggle of poverty as a child is difficult enough, but to have to face these problems as an orphan is unimaginable.
In developing nations there is also a severe lack of medical care available. Drugs, doctors and hospitals are many times too far away to help. If a small child steps on a long forgotten landmine blowing off one leg and mangling the other they need immediate medical attention. Watching your child bleed to death when you know the closest doctor is 100 miles away is more than any parent should have to bear. Holding your child while she dies in agony from a simple illness that could be cured with a couple of injections is ridiculous. Losing your wife and infant during childbirth is something that changes you forever. Accidents, illnesses, disease and infection all require prompt medical treatment. Either a child receives it or they die.
But of all the dangers faced by children in extreme poverty it is war that presents the greatest threats. War is the most barbaric behavior human beings can engage in. Too often its victims are the innocent civilians who are caught in the crossfire. This is especially true of children who are utterly defenseless against the ravages of armed conflict. They are not only at risk of physical danger but they suffer mental and emotional harm as well. They often witness atrocities that no human being should have to see. They look on as their fathers are tortured and their mothers are raped. They watch as friends and loved ones die violently all around them. The children of war live in a constant state of panic and terror.
That is not a childhood. It is not an acceptable way for human beings to treat the most innocent and vulnerable among us. They are dependent on us to care for them, to provide for them and to protect them. We cannot let them down. It is not enough to just feel sorry for them. We need to take immediate action on their behalf. As parents we should be thankful that our children are healthy and safe, and in turn we should repay our good fortune by helping those children who will die if we do nothing. We cannot stand to see our children suffer and neither can the parents who are trapped in extreme poverty.
LOVING YOUR CHILD IS NOT EXCLUSIVE TO THOSE WHO LIVE IN COMFORT.