KidsHealth's® Annual List Highlights Top Issues Affecting the Health of Children Worldwide
Wilmington, DE, December 12, 2013 — Can you imagine living on less than $2.50 a day? It doesn't seem possible, yet that's the reality for almost half the world's population. The effects of living in poverty are particularly dangerous to children.
KidsHealth.org, the #1 website devoted to children's health and development, puts poverty first on its list of the 5 critical issues affecting the world's children. As they do each year, the physicians and editors at KidsHealth sifted through health issues affecting children and families to choose the most critical childhood concerns.
"Huge progress has been made in so many critical areas involving children's health. Yet there is still important work to be done that doesn't involve expensive new drugs or surgical procedures," Neil Izenberg, MD, Founder and Editor-in-Chief of KidsHealth, says. "Instead, it's about the basics that most of us take for granted. We have identified 5 issues that desperately need the world's attention – and suggested some ways that families can help."
Of course, other important issues affect children's health, but in the midst of many, these are notable:
5 Critical Global Issues Affecting Children:
- Poverty: Almost half the world's population lives in poverty. And 1.4 billion people live in extreme poverty, earning less than $1.25 a day. In developing countries, poverty means starvation, disease, squalid living conditions, unclean water and poor sanitation, limited or no access to education and medical care, and high crime rates. And it's children who suffer the most – according to UNICEF, 22,000 children die each day because of poverty-related causes. Almost 30% of all children in developing countries are thought to be underweight or have stunted growth. This perpetuates the cycle of poverty, as these kids are less likely later to be able to earn a living wage to support themselves and their families.
- Clean Water: In most parts of the world, we take clean running water for granted. So it's shocking to learn that 780 million people lack clean water and 2.5 million people don't have access to a toilet. UNICEF reports that more than 5,000 children under age 5 die each day because of diarrheal diseases, often contracted through contaminated drinking water or no access to sanitation facilities, like bathrooms with flushable toilets. In developing countries, the task of collecting water usually falls to women and children, and means hours-long walks from the home to collect the water several times a day. This burden means the adults are not working at a paying job and the kids are not in school. Yet it could be an easy problem to fix. The World Health Organization estimates that it would cost $11.3 billion per year for global clean water and sanitation – in comparison, Americans spend about $450 billion each year to celebrate Christmas.
- Education for Girls: While primary school enrollment in developing countries has risen to 90%, worldwide, 57 million children are not enrolled in school. The link to poverty is clear: Girls who receive little or no education face limited job prospects, putting them at an increased risk of trafficking and sexual exploitation. They're also more likely than educated girls to contract HIV/AIDS. Educated girls are better able to find good jobs, keeping themselves and, later, their own children out of poverty.
- Wiping Out Polio: Since the polio vaccine was introduced in 1955, worldwide cases plummeted and the disease was declared eliminated in the Unites States in 1979. Global immunization was so successful that polio was poised to join smallpox as the only infectious diseases to have been eradicated. But in three countries — Afghanistan, Nigeria, and Pakistan — polio has never been wiped out, and cases of polio have been reported in Syria. Polio in faraway countries might not seem like a global concern. But as long as polio is present anywhere, outbreaks are still a risk. In fact, health experts warn that Syrian refugees could unwittingly carry the virus to parts of Europe. Until the disease is finally wiped out, it is a threat to all.
- Infant Mortality: The joy of giving birth is usually accompanied by a sense of wonder while watching a tiny, fragile creature take those first breaths. Luckily, for most new mothers, skilled medical attendants are on hand to make sure that all goes well during and just after delivery. Yet each year almost 3 million babies die within the first month of life, mostly in low- and middle-income countries where nearly half of all mothers and newborns do not have medical care. Many of these deaths can be prevented through simple, affordable interventions that can be used in home births.
KidsHealth has compiled a list of organizations that are working to fight these global issues. For families who want to help, we recommend these organizations:
- UNICEF (The United Nations Children's Fund): As little as 50 cents a day can make a big difference, and there are many volunteer opportunities. Remember trick-or-treating for UNICEF? That Kids Helping Kids campaign continues today.
- BRAC: The focus is on giving loans for enterprises that can pull some of the world's poorest families out of poverty (for instance, raising chickens for eggs and meat). Besides lending the money, BRAC provides training and support to its borrowers.
- Water.org: This nonprofit organization (whose motto is "Safe water & the dignity of a toilet for all, in our lifetime.") has brought clean-water solutions to communities in Africa, South Asia, and Central America.
- Global Education Fund: This group works to educate all kids. Families can donate, spread the word, start a fundraiser, host an event, and much more.
- End Polio Now: Rotary International, UNICEF, the World Health Organization (WHO), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation are at the forefront the Global Polio Eradication Initiative.
- Every Beat Matters: Save the Children's newborn and child survival campaign works to make basic lifesaving health care available to children in the world's poorest countries by training and supporting frontline health workers.
To read more about our 2014 Global Kids' Health Issues and other organizations that welcome donations and help, visit:
KidsHealth.org is the #1 site devoted to children's health and development in English and Spanish. Each year, over 250 million parents, kids, and teens turn to KidsHealth.org for expert answers, making it the Web's most-accessed site on children's health. KidsHealth.org has been honored as one of the 30 Best Websites by U.S. News & World Report, one of the 50 Coolest Websites by TIME magazine, and the Best Family Health Site "For Moms" by Good Housekeeping. KidsHealth also creates KidsHealth in the Classroom, a free website for educators featuring standards-based health curricula, activities, and handouts. KidsHealth comes from Nemours, one of the nation's largest nonprofit pediatric health systems and a founding member of the Partnership for a Healthier America, a partner to First Lady Michelle Obama's Let's Move! campaign that mobilizes the nation to eliminate childhood obesity within a generation. For more information about KidsHealth, please visit KidsHealth.org.