What is the biggest killer of children in the developing world? Everyone has different statistics. The World Health Organisation says that 1.8 million children under five years of age die from pneumonia each year, more than 98% of them in developing countries. About 800,000 die of malaria, 2 million from diarrhoea. Other killers are HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, measles, and tetanus. And of course, abortion. According to the Guttmacher Institute, 35 million children are aborted every year in developing countries.
However, what concerns Save the Children, “the world’s largest leading independent children’s rights organisation, with members in 29 countries and operational programmes in more than 100”, is climate change. “Climate change could kill 250,000 children next year, and the figure could rise to more than 400,000 by 2030,” says its new report, Feeling the Heat.
“Climate change is the biggest global health threat to children in the 21st century. Without concerted action, millions of children will be at increased risk from disease, undernutrition, water scarcity, disasters, and the collapse of public services and infrastructure. No one will be immune to the effects of climate change, but one of the largest groups to be affected will be children under the age of five.”
Isn’t there something grotesque about using numbers like this to bolster the case for climate change remediation? If you are really interested in saving the lives of children, perhaps reducing the number of abortions should come first. Not quite as controversial, but still eminently sensible, is an observation from the Climate Resistance blog: “It seems to us that there are 65 times the number of deaths attributable to the effects of poverty as there are deaths attributable to climate change”.
Unfortunately, charities like Save the Children seem so mesmerised by the threat of climate change that they are averting their eyes to even more pressing dangers.