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Avilynne Achieved the Awesome Age of Five!

Yesterday my daughter, Avi,turned five years old. She had a birthday party, but because a 20% chance of precipitation is such a very high likelihood, we got rained out before the party really got rolling. We tried to sing to her in the key of E (which wasn’t in the key of E) but I forgot the candles anyway. Then the wind started whipping and my like-a-cat-I-hate-water husband tried to throw everything (and us) into the car before we got soaked.  I was still trying to figure out whether I should try to scoop ice cream onto the multiple flavors of cupcake confections we were rapidly dispensing, or if it was a lost cause.

It was a lost cause. We still got soaked, we still ended up bringing 2/3rds of the cupcakes home and we still had birthday expectations to fulfill (like monkey plates and animal balloons). But that was okay, because at home we proceeded to have a whole new party with those who were luckily too late for the first one. So Avi ended up being with people she loves all day long.

And if you know Avi at all, she was thrilled. Beautiful, beaming, twirling, and she only showed a few of symptoms of Too-Much-Birthdayificous with some minor whining towards the end of her (our) long day.

If you have met my daughter, I’m guessing you’d like her. Of course, this assumption is based on the fact that no one has been stupid enough to walk up to me and say “your daughter is a horrible child and I DON’T LIKE HER!” So I could be drawing my conclusions from an inaccurate sample of people. But although she can sometimes be annoying and bossy, I still think you’d like her.

And this likable little girl is growing up! *Sniff* She was chatting up the relatives on the phone about starting kindergarten next week. Did you hear that? KINDERGARDEN! I can’t even spell that, it’s so advanced! Isn’t this the class where the phrase “All I ever needed to know I learned in kindergarten” comes from? Then, in addition, horrifyingly, she sometimes she acts like she is turning thirteen rather than five. Next thing I’ll know she’s going to ask if she can shave!

Obviously, I must be going through some parental stage that has some sort of long psychological name attached to it.

My charming, friendly, sing-songy, dramatic, artistic, persistent, imaginative, _(fill in blank in comment section below)_ daughter managed to transform into her own person with her own personality in the last few years. She isn’t a beautiful doll-like baby with fat drooping cheeks who looks like a old grandpa when she cries anymore. Maybe I should be happy about that. And while I am at it, it’s about high time I got over my bitterness about how childbirth hurt like heck!

It has been five years!

But what has really been getting to me is how many kids NEVER reach this age. In fact, 10.5 million kids don’t make it every year. Between 20,000- 27,000 children under five still die everyday, mostly of preventable stuff! This is much more horrifying than the fact that my daughter will want to shave someday.

Come on, you knew it was coming, right? I am not going to babble with happy glee about my perfect life (or child) without eventually pulling in some advocacy crap at some point in my post.

Child Mortality Rate- Those Who Don’t Reach Five

So here it is- something called child mortality rate or under-five mortality rate. It’s a measurement to figure out how healthy an area/country is by taking note of how many kids die before the age five.  Sadly, this is a pretty decent measurement of how developed a country is, along with the infant mortality rate (children under age one, accounting for about 70% of under-five deaths).

How many kids die before five in the United States? Our child mortality rate is 7.5 deaths per every thousand. This is extremely low, but it still happens. I have two friends whose children are represented in these statistics, and I can assure you that they are thoroughly heartbroken. As a parents, this is our worst nightmare.

Then there is the other side of the spectrum- the developing world vs. rich nations, like our own, which account for less than 2% of under-five child deaths:

“The highest rates of child mortality continue to be found in sub-Saharan Africa, where 1 in 8 children dies before their fifth birthday–nearly 20 times the average for developed regions.”

Can you begin to comprehend that? An eighth of the children on my street, in my kid’s school, in our church- they would have never made it. The next worst are for child mortality is South Asia, where the rate is about 1 in 14. In fact about half of deaths in children under five worldwide occurred in just five places: India, Nigeria, Democratic Republic of Congo, Pakistan and China (2009).

Now I should also note that two-thirds of these deaths are from entirely preventable or treatable diseases.  Overall, child death is result of extreme poverty, which is marked by lack of access to clean water, health care and education. And nutritious food (which is the core factor in over half of these child deaths).  Of course, lack of opportunities, like work and education, are also a problem, as they provide the money and knowledge to save lives.

Not to be a total downer, I will let you know there is some good stuff going on. The UN made an initative awhile ago called the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). By 2015 (which is almost here) they have been working hard to reduce the under five child mortality rate by two-thirds.

And as a result of all our efforts, these death rates are drastically going down! For example, between 1990-2010 the worldwide Child Mortality Rate went down by over a third! That is just AWESOME! Seriously, guys, there are lot more happy people out there because we’ve been investing in little people’s lives!

Wrestling Match: My Beliefs and Reality

I guess for some reason the closer Avilynne has been getting to the golden magic age marker of five years, the more I keep processing this fact that she is still alive. That this isn’t something I should have just expected to happen. I keep randomly breaking down in tears when I attempt to embrace the truth that her life isn’t a guarantee. This is my own battle, something I have to take up with God time and time again.

I also have had to process why around fifty-two million other kids under five have died in the few years since my daughter has been born. I can’t help but wonder about them. Why didn’t get to continue to experience life, like my daughter does? And is this a blessing or a curse? Or neither- just different?

I can’t totally back my beliefs with any religious text. But I believe these little under-five-year-olds (even though they are selfish too) transition to perfection, where they stop feeling hunger and stop feeling sickness. They have no more sadness, no more tears, and no more pain. They get to be carried away by God, in total freedom and dependence on His goodness, to experience true life in a way we can’t comprehend. This makes me smile.

But it also causes me to fight for the mothers and fathers who remain, to give them hope in their suffering. And although I’m not worried about the kids who have already passed on, I still feel affirmed to fight for those children who are still alive. I strongly believe our world wasn’t originally created for death, and I want to bring a glimpse of this heaven to earth. I endeavor to change the world to reflect God’s character, Him being the one who loves the poor, the sick, undeserving, and even the child I will never meet.

If I could, I would give them one of Avi’s extra cupcakes.

Action:

If you missed my last post, this must be one of the easiest ways to do something to help kids. Basically, each time you comment, you are vaccinating a child against the most common things they die from in the developing world. Comment = Save a kid’s life (and keep them from suffering needlessly). For more info on that check out Action: Blogust (Where Your Words Are Worth $20 to a Kid).

Team Zero is a UN initiative to stand up against preventable child deaths. Check out their pledge to end all preventable child deaths in the next 20 or so years.

Sponsor a kid under age five in one of the more vulnerable regions of the world mentioned above. I know some people find this annoying, but giving minimal financial, emotional, and spiritual investment in a child’s life long-term helps them to stay alive and pull out of the cycle of poverty they were born into.  I sponsor children with both Compassion International and World Vision.

Invest in organizations or projects which promote health education an provide preventative health care like vaccinations, and gives prenatal, birth and post-natal care. Then of course projects which build up the immune system, by providing clean water and healthy food for children.

If you are interested in the political advocacy for children under-five and learn more about this issue, check out the US Coalition for Child Survival.

Got any ideas? Let me know if the comments!

To learn more, click on this infograph which you can zoom-in-on:

(Click on Image to be brought to Good.is website to view clearly)

 

References:

Good.is. and UNICEF. (2012). Good/Transparency: Global Global Child Mortality. Retrieved August, 2012 from http://awesome.good.is/transparency/web/1207/let-s-stop-child-mortality/flash.html

UNICEF. (January 2007). Millennium Development Goal Four- Reduce Child Mortality. Retrieved August 20th, 2012 from http://www.unicef.org/mdg/mortalitymultimedia/index.html

UNICEF. (September 2010). Child mortality rate drops by a third since 1990. Retrieved August 19th, 2012 from http://www.unicef.org/media/media_56045.html

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