Leonard-Ray: Federal law could save children’s lives, at home and abroad

Columbia, SC — In the slums of Nairobi, Kenya, Veronica lives in a one-room mud house with her husband and three children. With the help of a community health worker, she recently gave birth at home to a daughter.

“I was so relieved. I was scared I would bleed too much,” Veronica told a Save the Children staff member in March. “I knew I was anemic, and I was worried that the baby would die.”

Veronica had reason to worry. Every day, 17,000 children under the age of 5 die, many on the day they are born. Earlier this month, Save the Children released its annual State of the World’s Mothers report with a special focus on mothers like Veronica, whose children face enormous odds surviving until their fifth birthday, often in the worst imaginable living conditions.

For far too many children, both overseas and here at home, it’s survival of the richest.

The report also finds huge disparities in infant mortality rates. Right here in South Carolina, for example, infant mortality rates have gone down in recent years but are still at 6.9 deaths per 1,000 live births, above the national average, which is one of the highest among all developed nations. The poorest babies in many other states face similar challenges in surviving their first year of life.

Both in the United States and around the world, Save the Children and the United Methodist Church are working to improve care for pregnant mothers and newborn babies through identifying and training frontline health workers, providing improved nutrition and sanitation, and educating local communities and people of faith about the importance of investing in global maternal and child health.

Last year, U.S. Sens. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Chris Coons of Delaware showed tremendous leadership in introducing bipartisan legislation that would help improve the lives of newborns, children and their mothers. That’s why I strongly urge Sens. Graham and Coons to reintroduce robust legislation that would save the lives of 15 million children and 600,000 women worldwide within a generation. There is no more important goal than saving the lives of precious children and ensuring that every family experiences God’s promise of abundant life.

We know what needs to be done. Together, we can end preventable newborn, child and maternal deaths around the world.

Rev. Susan Leonard-Ray

Anderson District Superintendent

S.C. Conference of the United Methodist Church