Charity’s battle to save the lives of destitute children

Reporter:

Lois Hough

IN THE country famous for Mount Kilimanjaro and the beautiful white beaches of Zanzibar, it is hard to believe that poverty is rife.

It has been one month since my trip to Tanzania but I can’t shake the image of those helpless children from my head.

As you read this, world leaders are gathering in New York to discuss how best to tackle global poverty.

This was something I witnessed first hand when I visited the capital city of Dar es Salaam and the rural town of Lindi.

There, simple things like food, clean water and basic healthcare are often out of reach for the poor.

Almost 200,000 children’s lives could have been saved in Tanzania over ten years if the government had made the same effort to help poor children as wealthy ones, says Save the Children.

The charity has discovered a dangerous trend among developing countries of tackling ‘low hanging fruit’ – governments using methods to reduce child mortality that save wealthier children rather than the poor . Jasmine Whitbread, international chief executive for Save the Children, says: “It is a disgrace that some countries are ‘ticking a box’ on child mortality without ensuring that the poorest and most vulnerable children benefit equally.

“Nearly nine million children under the age of five die every year – many of them from easily preventable or treatable illnesses – just because they can’t get to a doctor or because their parents can’t afford food that is nutritious enough to keep them alive.

“Yet many governments are turning a blind eye to these deaths simply because it is easier or more convenient to help children from better-off groups.

“Governments must be held accountable for reducing child mortality across all groups in society – regardless of wealth or background.

“Every child has a right to survive and every government has an obligation to protect them.”

The charity warns that unless world leaders take a radical approach to reducing child mortality, then Millennium Development Goals will not be met.

Jasmine added: “This is a battle we can win. Even countries with very low incomes can save thousands of lives by making political choices that make sure the poorest families get the help they need.

“But we need world leaders to agree a concrete plan for the next five years that prioritises and protects the world’s poorest and most vulnerable children.”

For me, increasing the funding to developing countries will go a long way in reducing poverty.

I visited the village of Kilangala where Save the Children funding had established a medical dispensary.

I spoke to orphan Sada Likaka, 12, whose mother died at birth and father abandoned her.

She lives with her grandmother and can only afford to eat one meal a day.

Volunteers teach locals how to make a protein-rich porridge that is cheap, easy and keeps the hunger at bay.

I believe the key is to teach these people how to help themselves.

Trevor Whitehead, from Penyffordd, visited Kitumbeine in the north of Tanzania when it was hit by drought earlier this year.

He was so struck by the state of one school that he shipped over 400 textbooks on his return to the UK.

Trevor, 47, a contract manager for Toyota UK, says it is the simple things that can save a life.

“Something as easy as a mosquito net can prevent a child from getting malaria,” he said.

“Vaccinations which we take for granted in the UK could save a life in Africa. But the most important thing is education – training the local people about healthcare and giving them the opportunity to do it themselves.

“These people don’t want handouts. They want the knowledge to be able to do it on their own.”

Trevor made a kind gesture on his return to the UK.

“I was so humbled by what I saw in Kitumbeine Primary School. There were 99 children in one class and not much else.

“I heard that Golftyn Primary School in Connah’s Quay had lots of old textbooks they were planning to throw out.

“The headteacher told me ‘fill your boots.’ So we shipped them out to Tanzania.”

The latest challenge for Save the Children is to build a neonatal unit at Mwananyamala Hospital in Dar es Salaam.

Here, there are beds for just 79 people but more than 180 mothers and babies can be admitted every day.

The charity wants to raise £175,000 to build the unit and pay for life-saving equipment to care for newborn babies.

The unit will save the lives of up to 750 newborns every year.

Appeals co-ordinator Rachael Harris said: “The situation for these women is truly appalling. But it’s even worse for their precious newborn babies who, without the proper care and facilities, are left vulnerable to deadly infections.

“There are no incubators or sterile isolation wards like we have in the UK, so premature babies have to fight for their lives from day one.

“A new neonatal unit seems to me a very simple solution. But to the mothers and babies at the Mwananyamala Hospital, it’s the difference between life and death.”

Dr Kamba, chief medical officer for the district, added: “This new unit would be a great privilege for us.

“It’s going to save a lot of babies who are dying daily because they don’t have the proper care. We urgently need your support. Children are suffering. I mean it deeply from my heart.”

I am back to the UK with my eyes opened, an admiration for these brave children and an incredible respect for Save the Children.

If you have been touched by the plight of these little ones, you can make a real difference by donating to Save the Children on 0800 8148 148 or visit www.savethechildren.org

In the meantime, let us hope that world leaders in New York today come up with some answers.

See full story in the Leader

Leave your comment

Share your opinions on

Characters left: 1500

Most Read