A Fever Should Only Be A Fever

June 4, 2012
by Cindy Changyit Levin, RESULTS Chicago


Taking care of a sick child is no fun, but that’s exactly what I’m doing today. It’s a beautiful summer day with all kinds of fun happening beyond our door. My little girl is in bed with a high fever and won’t be partaking in any of it.

I feel so sorry for my little one, but am I worried about her life being in danger? No. Not for a second. Because we’re lucky we live in a typical American suburb. I gave her Tylenol from the cabinet and ran her to the doctor’s office this morning just to make sure it wasn’t “strep.” I gave her a squeeze bottle of watered down juice to keep her hydrated and a popsicle for the same purpose. She’ll be fine in a few days.

Yet elsewhere in the world, this is not how it is at all. Common sicknesses often turn fatal without clean water, health clinics, or medicines. And they will continue to unless the world acts together against preventable childhood diseases.

This year, more than 7 million children will die before they turn five years old. Most of these kids live in impoverished countries, and their deaths are largely avoidable. But consider these inspiring thoughts. In the past 30 years, the number of children under five dying every year from treatable or preventable illnesses globally has been cut in half through increased access to health care. Plus, we have the resources to ensure every child in the world has a chance to make it to his or her 5th birthday if we act together now and protect funding for global health programs.

A turning point for child survival

This is a special moment in the fight for child survival. We have new tools to save children’s lives from pneumonia and diarrhea. Together pneumonia and diarrhea account for over a third of child deaths. Last year, new vaccines to prevent major causes of pneumonia and diarrhea were introduced for the first time in low-income countries. Also, oral rehydration solution (ORS) – a simple solution of salt and sugar that prevents deadly dehydration – was improved with zinc to help recovery and prevent additional bouts of diarrhea. However, of the millions of kids who suffer potentially life-threating bouts of diarrheal disease, less than 1 percent are getting the optimal ORS and zinc treatment.

We’ve made great strides in understanding how life-saving vaccines and treatments need to be delivered. Most children who die of preventable diseases are not in hospitals, but in rural and under-served areas. That’s why well-trained health workers are so important. Ethiopia has trained 40,000 community health workers in the last five years and deployed them in village health outposts. This has resulted in dramatic gains in immunization rates and better treatment of pneumonia. Thanks to forward-thinking, international organizations – including the GAVI Alliance – our delivery systems are getting better and better to serve hard-to-reach children.

Progress depends on continued funding

These life-saving efforts will not continue if we fail to fund them. Michael Gerson – opinion writer for the Washington Post and former speechwriter for President George W. Bush – said this regarding proposed spending cuts to global health programs in 2011, “Fiscal conservatives tend to justify these reductions as shared sacrifice. But not all sacrifices are shared equally. Some get a pay freeze. Some get a benefit adjustment. Others get a fever and a small coffin.” Simple fevers shouldn’t lead to coffins no matter where a child lives. We must not cut funding to the tiniest people who need it the most.

What can we do?

Now is the time for the world to take care of its children and now is the time to take action. Learn more about child survival at USAID’s website,Every Child Deserves a 5th Birthday. You can browse the album of 5-year-old pictures of others who support the movement looking for such notable people as Secretary of State Hilary Clinton and even download your own. Then, contact your members of Congress and urge them to protect childhood survival funding. It takes less time to make a call than to run to the store for Tylenol and can save the lives of millions of children around the world. 

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