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9.2m avoidable child deaths – what can you do?

It isn’t often that I get requests to post things on my blog, but World Vision have clearly understood how viral marketing works to the extent that they have employed the services of a ‘social media planner’. Tim Hoang asked if I could help get the word out about World Vision’s urgent appeal for 5,000 new British sponsors to help children in the developing world. For most of us this is out of sight and out of mind but that should not be so.

World Vision has identified at least five thousand children who need sponsorship in five sub-Saharan African countries – Mozambique, Niger, Senegal, Sierra Leone and Zambia – countries with among the highest child mortality rates in the world.

Launching World Vision’s Week for Children, British school kids gathered together to make a ‘high-five for health,’ urging members of the public to give just a little to make a huge difference in a child’s life. Each finger symbolises one year of a child’s life and the aspiration to get a child to the age of five. Sadly in 2009 each finger represents one of the five biggest killers of children under five: malaria, HIV and AIDS, pneumonia, measles and diarrhoea.

High Five
“We desperately need sponsors to help transform lives and are launching World Vision’s Week for Children to draw attention to the fact that 99% of the 9.2 million avoidable deaths of children under five occur in developing countries,” said Sharon McLeod, Head of Supporter Care at World Vision. “We are challenging 5,000 Britons to sponsor a child, for just 60p a day, which will change the life of that child and the life of that child’s community for the better in a real and lasting way”.

To understand the scale of the problem, data collated for World Vision by the Social Issues Research Centre (SIRC), an independent not-for-profit organisation, shows a child in Sierra Leone is 43 times more likely than a British child to die between the ages of 0-5, while a child in Zambia is 27 times more likely to die before his or her fifth birthday than a child under five in the UK.

Sierra Leone has the highest rate of under-five mortality in the world. For every 1,000 live births, 262 – a quarter of all children – will die. Even if Sierra Leone were to successfully reduce current rates of mortality by two thirds, in line with the Millennium Development Goals, this would be 15 times the under-five mortality rate in the UK, where six children per 1,000 live births will die.

Through child sponsorship, World Vision focuses on improving the quality of life of children – often the most vulnerable members of poor communities – helping to meet their education, health and other basic needs. This may include things such as providing them with access to clean water, better nutrition, education, improved healthcare and economic opportunities.

“Children in the developing world urgently need our support now more than ever. By appealing to the British public, we can demonstrate that the act of sponsoring a child is one of the best ways in which Britons can help make a difference in the developing world today.” said McLeod.

To participate in World Vision’s Week for Children and become one of the 5,000 Britons to sponsor a child please visit www.worldvision.org.uk or call 0800 501010.