Foreign Policy Blogs

Millions of Children Needlessly Dying from Preventable Disease


Would you sit there and not take your child to the doctor for a vaccine that you knew would save them from disease? Could you sit by and watch your child suffer from illness when all you had to do was get them some $5 worth of medicine? We all know the answer is no! We all take our children and get them vaccinated for everything we can, and when they are ill we make sure they have he medicines they need. Then how is that millions of children die everyday around the world from preventable and curable diseases and illnesses, that together may only cost $30? Is a child’s life not worth a mere $30, when you think of what you last spent that amount on, a meal or a taxi ride, can that really equate with the life of any human being? According to UNICEF”s 2005 Progress for Children Report, more than 1.4 million children die every year from preventable diseases, however that number is now more likely to be around 2 million.

April 25, 2007 was International Malaria Awareness Day, a day set to draw attention to the fact that every year million people, 90% of which are children (WHO). Malaria is preventable and treatable, yet almost half of the worlds countries are faced with this sever epidemic, as there 350 to 500 million cases of malaria each year. “The average cost for potentially life-saving treatments of malaria are estimated to be US$0.13 for chloroquine, US$0.14 for sulfadoxine-pyrimethamine, and US$2.68 for a 7-day course of quinine (Center for Disease Control and Prevention, Malaria Facts).” In addition to medical treatments of malaria, one other simple item could help eradicate the disease in our children, it’s as simple as buying mosquito net. A cost of less than $10 can buy a mosquito net and train them how to use it, a simple treated net can cost as little as $3. properly.

“Every day, 5,500 children across 21 countries in Eastern and Southern Africa alone die before they reach their fifth birthday.” That is more children than died in the tsunami! “And unless African governments and their international partners move quickly to redress the situation, 330,000 more children will die in the next two months” (Africa Renewal).

Tuberculosis, or TB, is a disease that is not disappearing, but is actually escalating worldwide and some estimate that it has infected 100 million people. The WTO estimates 9,000 people are infected each year, most in Asia and Africa. The high instance of HIV/AIDS is attributing to the increase. Additionally TB testing is seen as slow, and thus developments for the disease are needed, as “the problem with the 120-year-old test is that it only diagnoses less than 50 per cent of the patients who do have TB.” (WHO Reports that TB is on the Rise). Therefore in the case of TB we not only need to ensure that the medicines are made readily available, but that we also look for a more effective means of testing for the disease.

Measles is a fully preventable with a vaccine, however it is also highly contagious and therefore it can spread to an entire family, or even farther. “One million children without immunity is like dry tinder waiting for a spark,” said a UNICEF spokeswoman.

AIDS has reemerged in our minds thanks to the hard work of many activists and celebrities who have been drawing our attention to this growing crisis. Over two and a half million of children are infected by the HIV/AIDS. Millions of children in are effected by the epidemic in Africa alone, and we still have a lot of work to do to both prevent this disease, education and awareness are key, but not enough. The majority of infants are still being transmitted the disease through there mothers, during pregnancy, birth and through breast feeding. The transmission from mother to child is almost entirely preventable, however greater action needs to be taken to see that antiretroviral drugs are given to mother and child. Antiviral drugs will degrease mother-to-child transmission from 20-45% to less than 2%, however only 9% of pregnant women in resource poor countries were offered any sort of prevention services as of 2005 (AVERT, Preventing Mother to Child Transmissions Worldwide).

Polio has essentially been wipe out in the United States and the Western Hemisphere thanks to immunizations with the polio vaccine, however the disease is not gone. The rest of the world still battles the disease and an epidemic could still arise in the US if we where not properly vaccinated. Africa accounts for the largest amount of polio outbreaks, and as wars and poverty rage in many of the continents nations, immunizations fall by the waste side.

Children die every day from other diseases they get through dirty water, or malnutrition, and yet there are preventable measures. As a child walks the many miles in the blaring heat to fetch water, water that will inevitably make them sick, yet is the only means of survival, we in the west easily spend in a day or weekend enough to put clean water in that child’s village. A measly $10 could give a child access to clean water and $100 could assist a village in getting a sanitation system.

What all of these disease have in common is that they are needlessly killing our children, and we need to find more efficient and effective ways to see that these epidemics are not only curbed, but stopped for good. No child should every have to suffer, but it is an outrage for a child to suffer from a disease that could have been prevented for the same cost as a cup of coffee.

Vaccine Preventable Childhood Diseases
Roll Back Malaria Partnership
The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria
Nothing But Nets
Malaria Foundation International
Immunize Every Child
African Medical and Research Foundation
African Well Fund
Doctors Without Borders – Tuberculosis Fact Sheet



Cassandra Clifford

Cassandra Clifford is the Founder and Executive Director of Bridge to Freedom Foundation, which works to enhance and improve the services and opportunities available to survivors of modern slavery. She holds an M.A., International Relations from Dublin City University in Ireland, as well as a B.A., Marketing and A.S., Fashion Merchandise/Marketing from Johnson & Wales University in Providence, Rhode Island.

Cassandra has previously worked in both the corporate and charity sector for various industries and causes, including; Child Trafficking, Learning Disabilities, Publishing, Marketing, Public Relations and Fashion. Currently Cassandra is conducting independent research on the use of rape as a weapon of war, as well as America’s Pimp Culture and its Impact on Modern Slavery. In addition to her many purists Cassandra is also working to develop a series of children’s books.

Cassandra currently resides in the Washington, D.C. metro area, where she also writes for the Examiner, as the DC Human Rights Examiner, and serves as an active leadership member of DC Stop Modern Slavery.

Areas of Focus:
Children's Rights; Human Rights; Conflict