This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2015, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
In developing African nations, often a child is not named upon being born. If the child survives six months, then she or he will be given a name, an identity.
That's the painful reality described by Ndegwa Jackson, a Kenyan and health care advocate combating AIDS, tuberculosis, malaria, dysentery and other public health care concerns in his country. He's in Utah this week seeking support for a bipartisan bill before Congress to reform the United States Agency for International Development, or USAID, the governmental entity charged with fighting extreme global poverty. The idea is, in alleviating suffering, political stability follows.
That early emotional distance between infant and family described by Jackson is but one sad consequence of the fact that almost 6 million children die in those countries before their fifth birthday from preventable diseases, maladies made moot in the U.S. due to sanitary improvements and vaccines.
Mothers, too, die at high rates during childbirth almost 300,000 per year in these poorest of the poor countries. Many of these deaths could be prevented if simple equipment were available a sterile razor blade and twine for cutting and securing the umbilical cord, clean blankets for mother and infant, clean water.
Much progress has been made over the last three decades. In 1990, twice as many children died before turning 5. But advocates say greater strides are possible within decades if USAID's processes are improved, things like more centralized and focused planning to get aid where it is most needed, and better data collection to monitor progress. The agency, they say, needs an accountable Child and Maternal Survival Coordinator to oversee prioritizing the deployment of the government and private funds and resources for which USAID is responsible.
So far, Rep. Chris Stewart is the only member of Utah's delegation to support the Reach Every Mother and Child Act, the goal of which is to formulate a five-year strategy toward ending preventable newborn, child and maternal deaths. The bill doesn't call for more money, but rather to refocus resources. Stewart is among 24 bipartisan House cosponsors. The Senate version has five sponsors three Democrats, two Republicans.
In this time of congressional stalemate, here is an obvious effort where factions could agree to agree coming to the aid of mothers and children in the world's most impoverished corners. Utah's other members of Congress would do well and do much good to join Rep. Stewart in his support.