It's hard for me to wrap my head around the fact that nearly 10 million children worldwide die each year before the age of five, yet that is the reality according to a NY Times Op-Ed piece. We are fortunate that we aren't plagued with loss like that here in America, but in places like Sudan, where families are confronted with "every disease imaginable, from leprosy to malaria," it is estimated that approximately "one-quarter of children die by the age of five."
For families in Sudan, death is all too familiar. A father, Bolus Abdullah, who lost one son to meningitis only days before his younger son, 8-month-old Karlo, fell sick with malaria remarked, “Many children die here. But if that’s the will of God, then there’s nothing we can do.”
But there are things we can do and that's where the next presidential election comes in.
African children like Karlo may actually have more at stake in the outcome of the presidential election than children in the United States. Just imagine if the next president were to wage a serious war on malaria. At a tiny fraction of the cost of the war in Iraq (or a war on Iran!) such a campaign would save millions of lives and be a huge boost to African economies whose productivity is sapped by diseases.
After baby Karlo was diagnosed with malaria, he was treated with a medication that is almost always effective against malaria in Sudan. It costs just 50 cents for an entire course of treatment. Fifty cents. FIFTY CENTS! Fifty cents means the difference between life and death for millions of children.
So why isn't more being done to help fund foreign assistance? For years, the rationale for opposing humanitarian aid has been "it doesn't work."
But President Bush’s record underscores that other policies are difficult to get right as well: Iraq is a mess, and social security reform and immigration reform both failed. Mr. Bush’s greatest single accomplishment is that his AIDS program in Africa is saving millions of lives.
That makes it all the more stunning that Mr. Bush’s proposed budget for 2009 cuts U.S. funding for child and maternal health programs around the world by nearly 18 percent.
When so many women and children around the world are already facing serious health issues and dying, it is scary to think that budget cuts may be in the future.
As the 2008 presidential election draws nearer, voters should consider the power they hold in making a world of difference for millions of children and educate themselves about where their candidate stands on global humanitarian issues by visiting www.onevote08.org.
Voters should remember this: A president may or may not be able to improve schools or protect manufacturing jobs in Ohio, but a president probably could help wipe out malaria. Compared with other challenges a president faces, saving a million children’s lives a year is the low-hanging fruit.
Thanks to the 50 cent malaria treatment, Karlo's parents will not lose another son. Karlo will live. Shouldn't all children be given the chance to live?
Contributing editor Amy Gates also writes about attachment parenting, activism, green living and photography at Crunchy Domestic Goddess.