Is the World is Getting Better for Children?

Charles Kenny, a senior fellow at the Center for Global Development, speaks with confident optimism about the state of the world. In his new book, Getting Better: Why Global Development Is Succeeding—And How We Can Improve the World Even More, he describes the shocking range and depth of development success and  prosperity growth, even in the poorest parts of the world. His answer to those questions? The world is getting a lot better—especially if you are a kid.

Of the UN’s eight Millennium Development Goals, three are dedicated to children: eradicating extreme poverty and hunger, achieving universal primary education, and reducing child-mortality rates by two-thirds. According to Kenny, we are not only on track with those goals, but we are exceeding them.

“If I were writing the book today, I would be more positive,” he says. “What has become clear is that the African continent, sub-Saharan Africa in particular, is having one of its best decades ever. In a four- or five-year period, for example, Senegal reduced child mortality by two-fifths. It’s a big drop. We’ve halved the number of African children who are going to die before their fifth birthday.”

Although many parts of the world are still suffering, Kenny offers both sympathy and hope. Even in war-torn regions like the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Somalia, and Burundi, what he calls “green shoots” are sprouting: child mortality is declining rapidly, neonatal care is improving, and vaccination programs are putting down stronger communal roots. By all accounts, the development glass is half full.

How are children receiving better care in the midst of violence and poverty? The best answer, he says, is not public health programs—it is parents. A report by a UK-based health advocacy organization, the BMJ Group, emphasizes the role of active aid recipients or “demand-side” initiative, such as women’s groups and community health promotion. A new vaccine camp or school is no good unless parents use it to promote their children’s well-being.

At the end of the day, Kenny says, we all have an obligation to invest in development efforts. “I think the world is getting better. It means that actually—yeah, sorry—we have a moral responsibility.”

– John Mahon
Source: Christianity Today, NIH, The Lancet
Photo: Flickr