Why Do 10 Million Children have to Die?

The most poignant and urgent question raised
today is why 10 million children have to die. The answer is, of course, they
don’t. We have the medicines and the money to prevent these deaths. We lack
the moral commitment and the political will.

The most poignant and urgent question raised today at the Time Summit on Global Hunger was, “Why do 10 million children have to die?” The answer is, they don’t. We have the medicines and the money to prevent these deaths. We lack the moral commitment and the political will.

This is the recurring theme. Unnecessary death. Death resulting from diseases for which there are readily available treatments. Death that occurs in the developing nations but which has long been forestalled in the developed world.

Sir Richard Branson, Chairman of the Virgin Group of Companies, told the Summit, for example, that deaths from HIV/AIDS are the equivalent of four 747 airplanes going down each day. He said if this were to happen there would be a global investigation to immediately address the cause of these deaths. Dr. C.K. Prahalad said deaths resulting from HIV/AIDS are equivalent to four holocausts a year. But no matter how you describe these deaths, the crushing reality is the same. There is a need for urgent attention to improving the conditions that keep people in poverty and in providing access to health care. About this there is no question.

President Bill Clinton told the Summit it’s immoral that people “die like flies of diseases that don’t kill people in Europe and the USA” but kill children in Africa and parts of Asia.

Bill Gates echoed this concern stating that the most important argument for addressing the loss of life is the humanitarian argument. He said, “the greatest inequity in the world today is that diseases that don’t affect our children (in the developed nations) are taking lives in the developing world.” He called for public-private partnerships to create the vaccines and medications that can lead to simpler, quicker and longer lasting immunity to common diseases.

President Clinton noted that only 10% of the research money for new drugs is spent on diseases that affect 90% of the world’s people. That means, conversely, that 90% of research dollars go to the 10% of the population residing in the developed world. He explained how his foundation is working to provide generic drugs in volume at low cost so they can be distributed to the poor. He also noted that “take-rates,” the rates of those who take drugs according to the prescribed regimen, are higher in some developing countries than in the health clinic his foundation operates in Harlem in New York City. He noted this tells him that poor people, when given appropriate instruction, will take medications as prescribed, countering the claim that even if poor people got drugs they wouldn’t take them correctly.

Both Gates and Clinton spoke of the responsibility they feel as a result of their celebrity and wealth. Bill Gates said, “If you’re in the priviliged group you have to step out and say ‘this (poverty) isn’t how it has to be.'”

President Clinton told the audience “the longer you live and the more fortunate you are the more your obligations grow.”

He also observed that there is a “great yearning” among young people and those of retirement age to serve. “People are just dying to serve,” he said.

This leads him to believe there is hope and that the scourges the world’s poor face can be successfully addressed and many lives can be saved. He spoke of the need to do this urgently.

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