Some 21,000 children die every day around the world.

That is equivalent to:

  • 1 child dying every 4 seconds
  • 14 children dying every minute
  • A 2011 Libya conflict-scale death toll every day
  • A 2010 Haiti earthquake occurring every 10 days
  • A 2004 Asian Tsunami occurring every 11 days
  • An Iraq-scale death toll every 19–46 days
  • Just under 7.6 million children dying every year
  • Some 92 million children dying between 2000 and 2010

The silent killers are poverty, hunger, easily preventable diseases and illnesses, and other related causes. Despite the scale of this daily/ongoing catastrophe, it rarely manages to achieve, much less sustain, prime-time, headline coverage.

Some more numbers on the state of the world’s children

From UNICEF, the world’s premier children’s organization, part of the United Nations:

  • 2.5 billion people lack access to improved sanitation
  • 1 billion children are deprived of one or more services essential to survival and development
  • 148 million under 5s in developing regions are underweight for their age
  • 101 million children are not attending primary school, with more girls than boys missing out
  • 22 million infants are not protected from diseases by routine immunization
  • 7.6 million children worldwide died before their 5th birthday in 2010
  • 4 million newborns worldwide are dying in the first month of life
  • 2 million children under 15 are living with HIV
  • >500,000 women die each year from causes related to pregnancy and childbirth

Source: State of the World’s Children, 2010 PDF formatted document, UNICEF, p.18-19. See also ChildInfo.

Why is this tragedy not in the headlines?

Back in 2000, UNICEF’s Progress of Nations report for that year tried to put these numbers into some perspective:

The continuation of this suffering and loss of life contravenes the natural human instinct to help in times of disaster. Imagine the horror of the world if a major earthquake were to occur and people stood by and watched without assisting the survivors! Yet every day, the equivalent of a major earthquake killing over 30,000 young children occurs to a disturbingly muted response. They die quietly in some of the poorest villages on earth, far removed from the scrutiny and the conscience of the world. Being meek and weak in life makes these dying multitudes even more invisible in death.

A spotty scorecard, UNICEF, Progress of Nations 2000

Unfortunately, it seems that the world still does not notice. It might be reasonable to expect that death and tragedy on this scale should be prime time headlines news. Yet, these issues only surface when there are global meetings or concerts (such as the various G8 summits, the Make Poverty History campaign in 2005, etc).

Images © UNICEF

Furthermore, year after year, we witness that when those campaigns end and the meetings conclude, so does the mainstream media coverage.

It feels as though even when there is some media attention, the ones who suffer are not the ones that compel the mainstream to report, but instead it is the movement of the celebrities and leaders of the wealthy countries that makes this issue newsworthy.

Even rarer in the mainstream media is any thought that wealthy countries may be part of the problem too. The effects of international policies such as structural adjustments, the current form of globalization, and the on these processes is rarely looked at.

Instead, promises and pledges from the wealthy, powerful countries, and the corruption of the poorer ones — who receive apparently abundant goodwill — make the headlines; the repeated broken promises, the low quality and quantity of aid, and conditions with unfair strings attached do not.

Accountability of the recipient countries is often mentioned when these issues touch the mainstream. Accountability of the roles that international institutions such as the World Bank and IMF, and their funders (the wealthy/powerful countries), rarely does. The risk is that citizens of these countries get a false sense of hope creating the misleading impression that appropriate action is taken in their names.

It may be harsh to say the mainstream media is one of the many causes of poverty, as such, but the point here is that their influence is enormous. Silence, as well as noise, can both have an effect.

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[GlobalIssues]

“When I give food to the poor, they call me a saint. When I ask why the poor have no food, they call me a communist.” — Dom Hélder Câmara