According to global statistics, approximately 9 million children die each year before their fifth birthday from completely preventable causes. Those statistics include the three million babies that are stillborn, the one million that die from injuries, and the one and a half million that die from dehydration. The death of even one child is tragic. These deaths are not due to a lack of maternal care, but are often the result of poverty and other environmental factors. The extent of the grief suffered by parents over the loss of these children is almost impossible to fathom. Caring individuals, professionals and volunteers alike, are working to reduce the amount of suffering caused by these needless deaths. Information is one of the most important tools in achieving that goal.
The goal of one project is to make potentially life-saving information available to parents all over the world. To accomplish that goal, Facts for Life, a trusted global resource for parents struggling to keep their children safe, recently published its 4th edition. Previous editions have been translated into more than 215 languages. The quality of maternal care is one of the most important factors in a child’s life. This edition includes all the information based on the most current scientific research and statistics in the fields of medicine and child development most necessary to enable mothers to provide the best maternal care possible.
Facts for Life consists of 14 chapters, each of which is devoted to a topic related to pregnancy, childbirth, and the care and safety of children. Rather than merely presenting statistics, scientific information is presented in language that parents can easily understand. Equally importantly, each chapter ends with a number of concrete actions a parent can take to make their children’s lives safer. Incorporating child safety strategies that have proven to be effective into daily maternal care has saved many lives. Not only has the project improved maternal care, but it has also influenced policy-makers to invest resources into programs that focus on prevention of many of the conditions that threaten children’s lives.
For example, 1.5 million children die each year from dehydration caused by diarrhea, making it the second leading cause of death for children. Diarrhea is often caused by unclean drinking water. While many in the Western world are able to take the basic necessities of life, such as clean drinking water, for granted, parents in other parts of the world must learn how to make drinking water safe. The chapter devoted to protecting children from the potentially deadly effects of diarrhea describes the symptoms and the proper treatment in detail. Further, it educates parents about all the potential causes and provides solutions, such as water purification and personal hygiene, for preventing it. Another chapter addresses malaria, which is still a very real threat in many places in the world.
While some chapters are more relevant to maternal care in the developing world, the majority of them address parenting issues relevant to parents everywhere. The statistics presented in the chapter devoted to child protection are disturbing indeed, which makes the information contained within it all the more important. For example, in 2002, approximately 150 million girls and 73 million boys under the age of 18 experienced rape or some other form of sexual violence. As of 2001, it was estimated that 325,000 children in the United States were at risk for becoming victims of sexual exploitation. The chapter outlines children’s rights and the role of maternal care in helping children safely exercise those rights.
The chapter on emergency preparedness presents useful information about a number of different types of emergencies, from disease epidemics to natural disasters. Sadly, it also includes information about land mines, including places they are often buried, how to identify one, and what emergency medical procedures to initiate in the event that a child steps on one. According to UNICEF, in 2015, war was one of the leading causes of death for children.
Hopefully, the future will include more international projects such as Facts for Life, and war as a cause of death for children will be listed in the category of “preventable”.