In late 1983, UNICEF published a tragic report titled “The State of the World’s Children 1984.” Not the least of the findings was that in the last 12 months, around the world, the equivalent of the entire under-five population of the United States has been wiped out.
It didn’t make front page headlines nor the evening network news programs probably because we “all know about it” or “nothing can be done about it anyway.” But perhaps it’s time to take another look at the story before writing off’ all those children.
UNICEF also proposed simple and economic methods that could save the lives of 20,000 children a day.
1. The single most important killer is diarrhea, which causes dehydration; before it could only be cured by intravenous feeding. Now UNICEF is marketing a little packet with a mixture of salt and sugar, which, stirred with water and fed to the child permits him to rehydrate. Now 34 countries have already started production of the oral rehydrating salts.
2. Simple growth charts by which parents can monitor the gain in their children’s weight since malnutrition can be invisible to the naked eye.
3. Breast-feeding. The modern surge in bottle feeding has upped the risk of death in infancy fivefold.
4. Immunization against the Big Six diseases of childhood.
If these four simple steps were taken, and UNICEF says they could all be done on a shoestring by even the poorest of countries, they could save the lives of 20,000 children a day.
Is this a story that we all already know about … or is it one that deserves more media attention?
Independent Press Service, San Francisco Chronicle, 12/11/83, “Third World Waits for Tide to Rise,” by Jonathan Power.