Thursday, September 18, 2014

UN side event on reducing under 5-child mortality ignores the elephant in the room

A side event organized jointly by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and the Permanent Mission of Ireland launched a new technical guidance document on ‘the application of a human rights based approach to reduce and eliminate preventable mortality and morbidity of children under 5’. The technical guidance is very timely in respect of babies between birth and age 5 however it ignores the elephant in the room, the approximately 45 million unborn babies aborted before birth every year.
Millennium Development Goal (MDG) 4 called for the reduction of child mortality by 2/3 from the 1990 level. Figures presented at the side event say that the rate has halved from 90 deaths per 1000 live births to 46 in 2013, most of which (95%) occurs in Africa and Asia. The global rate of decrease is accelerating it was 1.2% in 1994-5 and has now reached 4%. Clearly there is still much to do.
The question that must be asked is why is the largest and most vulnerable group of children the approximately 45 million unborn babies who are slaughtered every year, ignored when preventable child mortality is under discussion?  Surely this is contrary to the provisions of the CRC and in point of fact represents a double standard. The unborn clearly come into the category of being under 5 and the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) in its preamble says:
“The child by reason of his physical and mental immaturity, needs special safeguards and care, including appropriate legal protection, before as well as after birth”.

The real issues are usually avoided and the standard UN argument in support of ignoring the child before birth is that the CRC only applies from birth. This argument however does not stand up when the travaux preparatoire (the history of the negotiations) is considered. Poland being a communist country at the time of the negotiations proposed that the Convention would apply only from birth. This was rejected and the ensuing document is not limited to born children only.
It should also be noted that the personhood of the child before birth is implied in the CRC by referring to 'the child' before as well as after birth.

This resolution is an update of last years one on the same issue, which called for the preparation of technical guidance which was announced today.

The report tells us that most child mortality is due to a small number of diseases and conditions 43% occur among newborn babies from birth to 28 days and are mainly due to pre-term birth complications, birth asphyxia and trauma, and sepsis. After the first 28 days, until age of 5 years, the majority of deaths are attributable to infectious diseases such as pneumonia (22%), diarrhoeal diseases (15%), malaria (12%) and HIV/AIDS (3%).  The vast majority of conditions and diseases that lead to death among children under 5 years of age are preventable and treatable through cost-effective interventions.