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.