As the world mourned Nelson Mandela’s passing and I travelled around South Africa with the Indian cricket team, I reflected on his powerful words: “The very right to be human is denied everyday to hundreds of millions of people as a result of poverty, the unavailability of basic necessities such as food, jobs, water and shelter, education, health care and a healthy environment.”
In 2012, almost 6.6 million children around the world did not live to see their fifth birthday. India accounts for 1.4 million of these deaths. This means that we as a country, and as Indians, have failed to safeguard their health and lives.
The two biggest killers, which lead to the premature deaths of more than 4 lakh children are diarrhoea and pneumonia. Tragically, both diseases are preventable. One of these children could have grown up to be our next Sachin Tendulkar, but circumstances, either economic or otherwise, took away from them a life they had every right to live. The children of our country deserve better.
Perhaps the most tragic consequence of our irresponsibility is that a large majority of these deaths can be prevented through simple interventions. It is true that India, as one of the fastest growing economies in the world, has taken large strides in the field of maternal and child health to safeguard the health of young children. However, there are still plenty of cases where even basic medical care, clean water, information about the importance of breastfeeding and immunisation remain inaccessible to many of India’s children and their parents. Health is a priority that, for some reason, seems to be de-prioritised by the government, and outside the primary focus of the media’s attention.
I was shocked, when I first heard about the extent of the grave situation of child health in India. What I found equally shocking was that most people are unaware of the issue and the sheer numbers of deaths.
Why is it that this country can only support those who can afford quality healthcare? Do we ignore the fact that the poor are left with no ways to safeguard the health of their children? It is time that we step forward to take a stand against what is a clear case of social injustice.
Someone once said, “We do not inherit the world from our ancestors; we borrow it from our children”. I cannot promise to save the lives of all the children who are dying today, even as you read this. However, what I can promise is that as a member of the Indian cricket team, I will lend my voice to those who don’t have one – the lakhs of nameless, faceless children who don’t have access to life saving medicines that can give them first, a childhood, and later, a future that they as all our citizens rightfully deserve.
Yuvraj Singh is a member of the Indian cricket team
The views expressed by the author are personal