In a rural village in northern Nigeria, a new mother named
Laila is doing everything she can to care for her baby daughter, Rabia. But despite
Laila’s efforts, Rabia’s future is not solely in her mother’s hands. If Rabia
was instead born to a wealthy family in Lagos, for example -- the largest city
in Nigeria -- she would be nearly four times more likely to survive to see her
This is the lottery of birth.
All over the world, children’s chances of seeing their fifth
birthday depends on where they are born, the wealth of their parents, and their
ethnic identity – factors that, for them, are purely a matter of chance.
research released today by Save the Children reveals a story of fast but
unequal progress in child survival. Despite unprecedented global improvement in
the past two decades, more than 75 percent of the 87 developing countries included
in the study are seeing inequalities in child survival getting worse. The
world’s most disadvantaged children are being left at the back of the line.
If current trends continue, children drawing the shortest
straw in this lottery of birth will continue to die from preventable causes for
generations to come.
Giving every child a fair chance in life is a defining
challenge for our generation, and must be tackled head-on.
In September, when the UN is tasked to agree upon a post-2015
global development framework, they will have a critical opportunity to shift
the global course of development, helping to ensure children are no longer left
behind due to social, economic or geographic reasons. The new framework must aim
to finish the job the MDGs started, putting the world on track to end
preventable deaths, and by 2030, no post-2015 target should be considered met
unless it is met for all social and economic groups.
Amidst this story of unequal progress, however, we have seen
a glimmer of hope. Inequality is not rising in all countries. Some leading countries, such as Rwanda,
Malawi, Mexico, Nepal and Bangladesh, have not only reduced child mortality at
a fast rate, but an equitable one, where the progress for more excluded groups
has been faster than the average national progression.
These countries should be the yardsticks by which we
measure, because Save
the Children’s research found that pursuing an equitable pathway to
reducing child mortality is linked to faster overall progress. The countries
which have improved equitably have, on average, progressed 6 percent faster over
the course of a decade than those who have not.
By investing in disadvantaged children, like Rabia, now, we
can change their futures, and ours.
This post also appeared on Healthy Newborn Network