EACH DEATH STATISTIC IN EXTREME POVERTY IS A HUMAN BEING THAT WE FAILED TO HELP.
Maiba was five years old when she died. She had spent 60 months living in constant hunger and pain. She was chronically sick and weak. Her physical growth had been delayed and her mental faculties had not developed fully. In the West she would have been “classified” as developmentally disabled. This was in large part from not receiving the proper nutrition she needed in the early stages of her life. She was the youngest of four children, two other babies had died at birth. With each new life it had become increasingly difficult for her parents to provide adequate food for everyone. When Maiba finally died from her hunger related causes she became a number. She was no longer the little girl who her brothers and sisters adored. She was no longer the beloved baby of the family. She was no longer the one her father felt so protective of because of her mental challenges.
25,000 children die from extreme poverty each day – a total of 9,125,000 every year. As a comparison, there are approximately 20,000,000 children under the age of five in the United States. So the number of children who die in poverty each year is roughly equivalent to about one out of every two American children in that age group dying. Try to imagine the response of the world if one half of all the children in the United States under the age of five died in one year. It would be the focus of all humanity. Every government and relief organization on the planet would be doing everything possible to stop the death. Every available dollar would be spent to find a solution. Every politician and public leader would be consumed with conviction and determination to end the suffering. Every type of public program would be hurled at the crisis.
The press coverage would be relentless. The agony of parents and loved ones would be overwhelming. Almost ten million dead American children is unthinkable. It would change our society forever…and yet that many children died from extreme poverty around the world last year, and at least that many will die this year. But there will be no press coverage. There will be no outraged political leaders. There will be no massive programs put into place to stop the dying. The effort to save the lives of these children will be insignificant compared to what is actually needed because they are not our children. They are out of sight in developing nations. They are powerless and they have no voice, so no one represents them.
Extreme poverty statistics are a window on the world. They are a way of measuring just how poor of a job we are doing taking care of each other. They demonstrate how ineffective we are at looking after those who are the most vulnerable among us. They are a way to gauge our callousness and indifference. They reflect back to us just how self-centered and myopic we can be. Death statistics are the end result of our unwillingness to do what we know is right. The statistics shows us how badly we have failed.
We seem to be willing to live in a world where nine million children die needlessly each year. How can we do this? How can we go about our lives and pretend this isn’t happening? Is that really the kind of world we want to live in? What message does that send to our children? We need to set an example by demonstrating to them how critically important it is to see that no child, under any circumstances in any part of the world, is ever allowed to die because of neglect. We must live in a world where the adults take care of the children.
It is certainly the type of world that would have given Maiba a decent chance to live. Her physical strength and mental acuity would have flourished. She would have had the proper nutrition required to support good health. Her brothers and sisters would not be heartbroken over her needless death. Her parents would not be enduring the grief and guilt of losing their child from a preventable cause. Maiba could’ve grown up to be a loving person with much to offer, but she never had the chance. Instead she became a statistic.
THE WORLD IS A LESSER PLACE FOR US ALL WHEN WE ALLOW A CHILD TO DIE.