One of the many arguments I have heard over the last few weeks from people trying to justify why vaccines should not be a high priority for the richer nations is a gem; ‘They just keep having more kids, what’s the point?’

Being a nice sort of a person who values human life this one makes my jaw bounce off the floor but jaw bouncing does not a counter argument make so I had a bit of a think.

Now, why would people in straitened circumstances ‘just keep on having more children’?

Could it be that they are expecting some of them to die? Could it be that children are needed in the short-term to help on the land/in the home and in the long-term to look after their parents as they age? (That’s a baby on her back, not a doll)

Could it be that they don’t have the luxury of planned pregnancy?

We seem to have a very short memory in this country. My grandmother was the youngest of ten girls. The first one was called Una the last Decima so my Great Grandparents were obviously in for the long haul from the off. That was two generations ago. How things have changed.

As the vaccination programme in this country kicked in, as health in general and contraception in particular has improved and with free health care for all, infant mortality rates have declined. They fell rapidly in the first half of the last century, dropping from 140 per thousand live births in 1900 to 63 per thousand in 1930. During the economic depression of the 1920s and again during the second world war infant mortality increased again but with economic prosperity and the introduction of our marvellous National Health Service we no longer see large fluctuations in the death rates and infant mortality has steadily declined.

In the UK in 1997 there were 5.8 infant deaths per thousand births.

In Mozambique the current infant mortality rate is 105.8 per thousand births.

Each and every one of those deaths hurts.

Vaccination is only the beginning. Vaccination gives them a chance, a start in life. As health improves the infant death rate goes down, as the infant death rate goes down the birth rate goes down; it’s not rocket science.

It is easy to forget how lucky we are and how far we have come in a relatively short space of time. It is easy to criticise the services we receive and bemoan sending money overseas but as David Cameron said (and it is not often I agree with him) it is a moral duty. A child’s chance at life should not be determined by the lottery of its place of birth.

Food for thought.

Statistics Source 1 and 2

Other sources GAVI, Save the Children and DfID


Filed under Mozambique, Pass It On, vaccines

26 responses to “Breeding

  1. A very powerful post Chris. The stats do make you stop & think.

  2. Excellent post, couldn’t agree more. The gall of some people thinking that keeping the money here to make our lives more comfortable is more important than saving the lives of countless children.

    Now look – you’ve made me all cross again….

    • Thanks Kate…it’s astonishing isn’t it? As I’ve said before and, no doubt, will say again it is easy to forget the people behind the headlines. Children aren’t just numbers. I hope what I have achieved is to bring the faces and voices into people’s lives…it makes them hard to ignore.

  3. Who the hell does anyone think they are judging whether a normal and loving person (I am not including the ones who are clearly incapable of caring for children) should have children or not?

    All the stats you have given are very interesting, you also have put forward very good arguments.

  4. Ohhh that’s annoyed me too Chris! I agree with you Entirely – A brilliant, thought provoking post. Hopefully it will change the minds of those who bounced your jaw.

  5. Vaccination is a wonderful step forward, saving thousands of lives daily — and I think all decent folk will agree that every life is utterly priceless.

    • Decent folk do, unfortunately there are some vocal people who don’t. It’s more a refual to see the people behind the headlines I think…I’m pretty sure if they were face to face with the Mums and children this affects they would not be so outspoken!

  6. First is health care, as you so rightly say, and the next biggest element that leads to a smaller birth rate is education – especially for girls. Obviously it is all about saving the children who are born not reducing the birth rate – but, as you say, one thing leads to another. Seems like some people here need a bit of educating.

  7. I understand this is a tricky one but like many debates regarding our lives in the ‘West’ and Africa to me it is simple, mothers need maternity care, ante and post natal care and tiny babies need their basic immunisations and follow up maintenance care.. Well done you to highlight this xx

    • I absolutely agree with you; start with the mums. Good ante natal care followed through into post natal care and continued on spreads through the whole community. Thank you so much for commenting.

  8. I think it’s understandable that people should question how we help poorer nations: they want to be sure money is not being siphoned off by governments and they want to feel that any aid can really make a difference, to help people at grass roots level. I suspect this is why we hear frustrated comments of the ‘why are we bothering’ type.

    However, your post explains extremely well why it’s not just a matter of handing out contraceptives and that we mustn’t turn our backs on these people and give up. Vaccination is a excellent way to improve the health of the poorest nations in a measurable, targeted way. I’m sure it will make a big difference.

    Excellent post, Chris.

    • I think you’re right Trish, that is why this is such a good project to be involved in. Directed aid makes such a difference and being able to show people where it goes and how it gets there has, in the main, produced a positive response. I understand people’s frustration and dramatic news reports of pilfered aid don’t help…the people on the ground, delivering services are remarkable and I hope this project has shown people what a fabulous job they do getting vaccines out to those who need them in the most challenging circumstances.

  9. A long time ago, when I was young (before children) a similar view point may have crossed my mind. I would not like to defend the people who make these comments, I am ashamed that I ever thought about it, even in a small way, but I’m guessing that perhaps any negative comments are from those who are younger, or those not yet wiser. Keep up with educating people, an excellent piece like this one will go a long way to help.

    • Thanks Claire, what an honest and thoughtful comment. I think, in the main you may be right although the feedback I have had from young people has been amazing. The troubles I have had have come from older, entrenched and thoughtless people who are so comfortable where they are they can’t be bothered to think! Maddening!

  10. Goodness I hadn’t realised the stats were quite so stark

    And it is only a very short time since we’ve had the benefit of vaccinations in the developed world and look at the changes it has made to child mortality

    I can’t imagine anyone condemning parents to the pain of losing their children – or do people assume that these parents feel less because they don’t have our Western advantages?

    Eitehr way this campaign is a very good thing

    • The stats are a bit mind blowing aren’t they? It is such a short time that we have had the benefit of a vaccination programme but people’s memories are short.
      I have come up against the ‘they don’t feel it like we do’ brigade and they are very hard to deal with. Every parent feels that pain.

  11. Thank you for sharing this very powerful and moving post. I hope it helps to stop judgmental and prejudiced people and most importantly create action and support. I recently signed and blogged about getting people to sign the petition for more vaccinnes. Thank you again.

  12. An amazing post. Can I just say how I can’t wait to meet you on Saturday. x

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