By Adam Taylor
Statistics have a way of overwhelming and numbing us.
Yet 7 million children under the age of 5 die each year due to preventable causes. This fact took on a more personal and real nature after my wife gave birth to our second child a few months ago.
The world is on the precipice of achieving a revolution to give children around the world an opportunity to live and thrive beyond their fifth birthday. This revolution rarely grabs headlines and is barely televised.
But I believe that the average American would be moved by the images and stories of millions of children’s lives being saved by inexpensive and effective interventions like bed nets or clean water. The cost-effective programs that are causing these gains are also some of the best advertisements for American compassion and goodwill in the world.
Stolen Futures in Bolivia
I had the opportunity to see a glimpse of this revolution in real time while spending a week in Bolivia recently, while traveling up and down winding dirt roads through the Andes north of La Paz to visit World Vision projects and programs.
While Bolivia has achieved some gains in reducing preventable child deaths, the country still has the highest child mortality rate in all of Latin America. In fact, many of the most remote and marginalized districts have a rate that is over five times the national average. In 2010, 54 out of every 1,000 kids in Bolivia had their futures stolen from them due to preventable illness, including causes such as diarrhea, pneumonia, and malnutrition. In comparison, only 7.5 children out of 1,000 died before their fifth birthday in the United States that year.
Fortunately World Vision is working with communities across Bolivia to take on this challenge through community-based programming and campaigning. I witnessed communities that are being transformed by gaining access to reliable irrigation systems that enable them to grow food in an often adverse environment. Our staff are training community health volunteers to empower mothers with the knowledge and skills to prepare more nutritious meals for their children and to grow their own vegetables in family greenhouses. Parents exuded smiles of pride, gratitude, and responsibility because now they could grow life-sustaining food for their families and move one step closer to self-sufficiency.
Yet, what impressed me most was the degree to which our staff and programs were collaborating with municipal government programs in order to tackle these threats facing children. Many of World Vision’s staff and community leaders worked hand-in-glove with municipal nurses, health care workers, and doctors, lending greater capacity and increasing accountability and access within the public system.
Beyond 5: Five is Not a Child’s Lifetime
World Vision’s Beyond 5 campaign is centered in the conviction that all children deserve a chance to live and thrive beyond their fifth birthday. The first five years of life are precious and precarious, particularly in places where lack of access to clean water, food security, and poverty pose daily threats. The beauty of Beyond Five is that we know what works. We possess proven, evidence-based, and cost-effective interventions that save the lives of children.
While experiencing glimpses of community life in Bolivia I couldn’t help but see the face of my 2-year-old son Joshua and 1-month-old son Nathaniel reflected in the faces of the Bolivian children I met. I also met parents who share the same hopes and aspirations for their children as I do, that their children could realize their full potential and experience life in all its fullness.
Even in the midst of these tough economic times, I hope you will join me in using our voices to ensure that children can fulfill their promise. It is one of the most important and life-affirming investments we can make.
What You Can Do
Pray for the health of children in Bolivia. Use the Beyond 5 Prayer Guide if you’d like some prayer points to get started.
Send a message to your members of Congress [this action has expired] Ask them to pass key legislation and help save the programs that will provide babies, toddlers and their moms with the help they need to survive and live beyond 5!
Check out the various ways you can donate to help a child get Beyond 5.
Photo: Adam Taylor and Issa Bitang Country Program Manager posing with community members during a Bolivian health fair in the Wiñajpaj Area Development Program. © World Vision