Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Un-Named and Uncounted

When Caoily was 10 months old, she came down with rotavirus. If you have children, and you've been through this, then you know how awful this common infection is. Everything you put into your child--in my case, breastmilk and some solids--comes out in a very short time as a watery, noxious, seemingly neverending river of shit that overflows diapers. I would breastfeed her, and she would be shitting simultaneously, covering both of us in it as I tried to get fluids into her to keep her from dehydrating.
Our pediatrician hospitalized her after 12 hours. For three days, she stayed on a simple solution of electrolytes and fluid through an IV in her leg, the only vein the anesthesiologist (I had insisted on an anesthesiologist) could find to puncture.
She was one of the lucky ones.
1.6 million African babies will die in their first 28 days of life. If it takes you five minutes to read this diary, 15 babies in Africa will have died.
But hey, apparently, we're making progress.
JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) - Each year more than one million babies in sub-Saharan Africa die before they are a month old because of a lack of essential health care, a U.N. report said on Wednesday.
"Sub-Saharan Africa remains the most dangerous region in the world for a baby to be born -- with 1.16 million babies dying each year in the first 28 days of life," said the report published, in Johannesburg and Geneva.

According to the World Health Organization:
New report shows improvements in child survival in Africa for the first time since the 1980s - but more than a million African babies still die in the first month of life.
Up to half a million African babies die on the day they are born - most at home and uncounted. According to the report, Liberia has the world's highest newborn mortality rate at 66 deaths per 1,000 births compared to less than 2 deaths per 1,000 births in Japan and 6 deaths per 1,000 births in Latvia. Half of Africa's 1.16 million newborn deaths occur in just five countries - Nigeria, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, United Republic of Tanzania and Uganda. Nigeria alone has over 255,000 newborn deaths each year.
"The health of newborn babies has fallen between the cracks - Africa's un-named, and uncounted, lost children," said Dr Francisco Songane, Director of the Partnership. "We must count newborn deaths and make them count, instead of accepting these deaths as inevitable. The progress of these six African countries demonstrates that even the world's poorest countries can look after their newborns, their most vulnerable citizens. They have shown the way-we must seize the opportunity."

It's that fucking phrase, "un-named and uncounted," that is sticking in my craw.
That's what we're doing in Iraq, right? Not counting the dead? That's what we do when the dead don't matter. We don't give them names. We don't count them.
That's what we say to each other in games where nothing's at stake. "That doesn't count."

Did you know that American Indian infants are 1.7 times more likely to die than "white" infants?

Does that count?

Did you know that in Massachusetts, in 2003, black infants were 3 times as likely to die as white infants?

Where the fuck are the right-to-life crowd on all this? Oh yeah. Busy trying to protect potential zygotes. Fuck the born. Fuck all of them.

I can hear some of you muttering now. Lorraine. Dudette. We know you're kind of flattened by grief and all, but you're not making a lot of sense. African mortality rates and the anti-choice faction in America? What's the connection? If you pay attention, you already know the answer to that question. You see, the reason that so many mothers and children are infected with HIV in Africa, and thus, the reason so many un-named children die, is because that same sanctimonious, woman-hating, fuckwad-loaded group of organizations in America and the Vatican who spend all their fucking energy weeping and gnashing their teeth over sacred sperm and holy ovaries are the same fucking groups who support Gag rules, and oppose the distribution of condoms, and who continue to preach that sex is bad, abstinence is the only way, and dead babies are God's way of manufacturing little angels whose wings fan his magnificent face and keep him cool.

If you want to send, oh, I don't know, the equivalent cost of a can of cranberry sauce to one organization that's making a difference, may I suggest Medecins sans frontieres?

1 comment:

Heartland1 said...

It's good to have you back, thinking about these things, despite your recent tragedy. I will hope that time and distance will also return that sense I've gotten from some of your posts, of a joyous good nature, willing to sample it all, to jump into life with both feet--that gift that let you experience so much joy and sorrow in so short a time.

But, to your subject, medicine sans frontiers is a good charity. Those people have guts. I give money to Hieffer International, a charity that heals in a different way, I hope, and at christmas, I give money in my siblings names to that group, rather than buying them a popcorn popper or some such--we've all already got too much stuff. We also give to our local food bank. In my State, 214,000 people used it last year--20% of the entire population. That seems like a lot of hungry neighbors.