This blog is intended to go along with Population: An Introduction to Concepts and Issues, by John R. Weeks, published by Cengage Learning. The latest edition is the 12th (it came out in 2015), but this blog is meant to complement any edition of the book by showing the way in which demographic issues are regularly in the news.

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Monday, April 23, 2012

Young Children Are Still Dying Needlessly in Developing Countries

One of my favorite books about Africa is Chinua Achebe's best-seller, "Things Fall Apart," describing, among other things, the European impact on Nigeria. The book was first published in 1958 and it refers to a time in West Africa that was several decades before that. Many things have changed over time, but the fragility of human life in the youngest ages is still an issue. Achebe describes this in terms of a mother talking about her willingness to invest time and energy in a young daughter:
“I think she will stay. They usually stay if they do not die before the age of six” (p.42)

Children in developing regions are still dying needlessly at young ages, especially in sub-Saharan Africa, and USAID today announced a new initiative to help push these rates down. The roll-out, with many global partners, will be in June, but they are starting the hype. Here are some of the kinds of things they have in mind:
Over 70% of under-5 deaths occur within the first year of life. We will improve nutrition during the critical "1,000-day" window of opportunity from pregnancy until the child is 2 years of age, eliminate mother-to-child transmission of HIV, provide essential newborn care, and promote healthy timing and spacing of pregnancies.We will stop children from dying because of a mosquito bite or vaccine-preventable diseases. We will make it easier to treat non-severe cases of illness, and we will work to improve sanitation and hygiene to prevent diseases in the first place.
The research in Africa that my colleagues and I have been doing is closely related to these themes of bringing down child mortality, especially in urban areas, where populations are increasingly crowded into slums. The resources to deal with these issues are very limited at the local level, and so global initiatives like this greatly increase the odds that progress will not stall.

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