Letter To The Editor: Young Child Deaths – Where Are Our Faith Leaders?

White Rock

I appreciate Father Glenn’s writing (link) about the tragic loss of a young life and the issues of faith that it raises.

I am disappointed, however, that many religious leaders have failed to speak out about the ethical and moral issues related to the more than 5 million under-five children who die every year worldwide. In addition, these same leaders have largely been silent about the exceptional disparities in young child deaths in our own country.

Let me elaborate briefly. The average infant mortality rate in the US, at 5.9 deaths for every 1,000 infants who are born, is three times more than in Japan. It is also almost three times more than in a number of other high-income countries.

In addition, the US state with the worst infant mortality rate in the US, Mississippi, has a rate of 8.9, which is more than twice that of the best state, New Hampshire. Moreover, the disparities by race in the US are exceptional by almost any standards. In Wisconsin, non-Hispanic black infants die at more than 3.5 times the rate of white infants.

There has been substantial progress in reducing infant and young child deaths in many countries. Yet, globally, about 14,000 children under five years of age die every day. In some regions of the world 1 in every 10 children who are born will die before their first birthday. There are also enormous disparities in infant deaths rates both within and across countries.

Infant and young child deaths are overwhelmingly preventable, many through relatively simple and low-cost interventions. Yet, partly because of a lack of commitment to addressing them in some settings, they continue. This should be of special concern, including moral and ethical concern, to all of us. It should also be a matter high on the agenda of all faith leaders and all who profess a concern for life.


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