Let’s celebrate International Children’s Day with a quick exploration of population statistics. After reading this great piece, comparing the writer’s kitchen to others around the word, I was inspired to look for more statistics. How do you and I compare to most of the world?
I get to breastfeed my baby
In the US, 49% of babies are still breastfed at 6 months. We are right on track with that one. My baby is still regularly fed by me. In the world, less than 40% of infants are exclusively breast fed for the first 6 months. That said, as a gig worker and a resident of the Good Old US of A, I did not get a maternity leave. In Sweden (oh glorious Sweden!) women get 80% of their income for 56 weeks. That would certainly facilitate breastfeeding. The only countries without a paid maternity leave are Papau New Guniea, Swaziland, Liberia and the USA.
My baby got to survive the neonatal period
Oh, the things we take for granted. My baby made it through his first 28 days fat and happy, regaining his birth weight in under two weeks. At 8 months, he is already pulling himself up and moving around. In Southeast Asia, approximately 47 babies per 1000 die in the first 28 days. While one cannot say that the “average” baby dies, it is certain that every family deals with neonatal death. According to Unicef, “Newborns remain the forgotten children of Africa, with their deaths considered as ‘normal’”. I do not personally know even one baby who has died. Not even one. Now that is a miracle.
My daughter gets to live, too
1 out of every 11 children born in sub-Saharan Africa dies before age 5. This is nearly 15 times the average rate (1 in 159) in high-income countries. Think about that number. That would be like 2 children from every US kindergarten class dying. EVERYONE in these countries experiences the loss of a child, either directly, or through a sibling or close friend. Many of the children die from diseases that could be prevented by hand washing.
My daughter made it to me
My daughter, Amor, came to me through the Department of Social Services in Massachusetts. I met her when she was 10 weeks old, and adopted her when she was about 2 years old. She is the love of my life and it is an absolute miracle that we found each other. In many parts of sub-Saharan Africa, 15% of the under 15 population is orphaned, but there are not sufficient resources to take care of them and help to connect them to a loving family. So they suffer. If my daughter happened to be born there, she would not have found a family.
According to Unicef, in Russia there are 720,000 children who are not in the custody of their parents. Of these, only about 18,000 are on waiting lists to be adopted. Furthermore, since Putin banned all American Adoptions in 2012 in an act of retaliation to the US government, adoption by US parents is impossible. The “Average” Russian orphan is not going to find a stable home.
The statistics for children in state custody are not great even in the US. In Massachusetts, only 8 percent of children in foster care found permanent families in 2011. The state rates dead last among states in their ability to keep children safe in foster care. As the biological parents of my child could not parent her, it is a bell-ringing, beautiful miracle that she made it to me, unharmed. The “Average” child in foster care stays there.
We have enough food
We have plenty to eat. More than we can imagine.
In 2013, one in four children under age 5 worldwide had stunted growth, due to malnutrition. One in four. In Burundi, that “Average” child is malnourished; 58% of children under 5 are hungry.
We have nourishing food
In the US, we have the opposite problem. Thanks to the US government, laying on corn subsidies which make candy bars and fast food cheaper than fruits and vegetables, our children are getting fatter. Approximately one in 5 children in the US is overweight. Even worse, many of the overweight people do not realize that they are overweight. Overweight is becoming normal.
We have a potty and water
In fact, we have MANY potties. We have potties for the little people, and potties for the big people. They flush! They sure do! And we wash our waste away with good, clean, potable water! Can you imagine? All that drinking water, flushing away our refuse.
My water tastes like sulfur. But there it is, running out of my faucet, and into my toilet, with almost no effort. Yes, when I shower, I come out smelling like a boiled egg. Nonetheless, I can take a shower, pretty easily, whenever I want. The “Average” child in rural India does not have access to water.
Dear inhabitants of North America, we are just a bitty piece of the pie! More than 90 % of the world is NOT US. Our “Average” is not universal. Yet another reason to be a good neighbor.
Featured image credits: Mustseeindia