Back to all posts

Why 2500 deaths/day is Creating a Bigger Panic and Emergency than 17,000 Children deaths/day?

To say that we all have been overwhelmed for the last few weeks with what’s happening around us, is an understatement of the 21st century.

The staggering number of deaths and infections due to the CoronaVirus has created fear and brought all of us down to our knees and the economy at large.

Like everyone else, am also overwhelmed and seeking answers to many questions. And I started wondering what’s causing all this, why these numbers are overwhelming all of us, creating fear, shutting down the economy.

So, I sat down to research some data and I came across some bigger numbers than what we are seeing in the case of Covid-19.

  • TB — 3000 deaths/day
  • Hepatitis B — 2400 deaths/day
  • Pneumonia — 2200 deaths/day
  • HIV/AIDS — 2000 deaths/day
  • and the list goes on…

But what shocked me even more was that there are 17,000 children dying every day (yes, everyday) due to preventable and treatable causes. Surely, this is not in direct comparison to infectious diseases. But a loss of life is a loss of life.

So why aren’t we worried about that? Why are governments not taking action on a war footing and allocating enough resources and money to save these lives? Why is the media not reporting those numbers on a daily basis, as they are doing for the Covid-19

The Reason We Love Numbers

Everyone loves numbers. We all are fascinated by numbers, whether we fully understand or not. We love to read about it, talk about it, share it with everyone on social media posts, forward it on whatsapp and other messaging platforms — all of which makes us look like Brainy Maths Wizards.

Your friends and colleagues then start liking your posts/tweets, even commenting and providing their set of new numbers. By the time you know, that social media post has already become worthy of a book publication.

We also love to consume dashboards that have all kinds of colours to depict numbers, statistics, charts, etc. The more the colours on the dashboard, the more time we end up spending on that, because our curious mind wants to also understand what does that “light orange” bar really mean?

In my opinion, the amount time we spend on a dashboard is directly proportional to the number of colours on it. But that’s just me.

But how and why do we consume these numbers. One is the curious mind. Second is the Media.

All kinds of media sources — Newspapers, Online publications, Broadcasters, TV channels, etc are running the CoronaVirus infected numbers every second similar to running stock market tickers.

The only difference being that this CoronaVirus Ticker displays information country-wise with number of people infected, number of people dead, number of people recovered, etc. And as any person who has ever watched the stock market ticker or a dashboard of stock prices, the more you look at it — the more you are filled with anxiety.

And if the stock prices are crashing at the same time, your anxiety turns into stress. Very soon panic sets in when everyone is looking at the same ticker every second and sharing it with everyone else. Same applies to the CoronaVirus ticker as well. As the infected and dead numbers keep rising, we start coming under the grip of fear and panic.

So lets look at some information and numbers that media mostly highlights in the case of CoronaVirus –

  • Increase of infections over the previous day
  • Increase of deaths over the previous day
  • Italy overtakes China in total infected cases
  • Spain Overtakes Germany in total infected cases
  • US overtakes Italy in total infected cases
  • Total Infected Globally — approaching 4.5 M
  • Total Dead Globally — 300,000

Big numbers right? Hold on, these are not just “big numbers”, these are “very big numbers” — the kinds which makes your mind go numb and think what the hell is going on — approx. 300,000 already dead in almost 4 months, and how many more to come?

But is the Media talking as aggressively about how many are “mild symptoms” or “critical” category from the 4.5 M, or how many have recovered so far? Except for a few reputed publications. But majority of media publications do not display these numbers with as much zeal as the “Infected and Dead” numbers. Why are only these numbers being flashed all the time? Why not show how many are mild symptom cases, and how many have recovered, how many were tested negative after the tests?

Negative News Travels Faster

The reason its not important to display these numbers continuously is because it is Positive news. It will not spread as fast as the Negative news.

Its no secret that Media likes to sensationalize data, literally any data. And they know it better than anyone else that negative news/data travels faster than any positive news (which they can actually put it to better use as I will explain later in the article).

The nature of business models under which Media companies operate, there is a direct monetary incentive for the media to make news travel faster and farther.

Negative news creates stress and fear without your brain being completely aware of it. You then want to share it more people, so that you are not the only one panicking or maybe you just want to warn your friends or loves ones about something bad that is happening. It is natural to do that. But deep down you also want that solace, that there should be more people like you out there who will feel the same as you are feeling.

When anxiety is shared with more people, its makes people feel better about themselves. But in that process, unknowingly they have passed on that anxiety to another person, and the chain continues. It’s the community thinking.

An individual suffering seems much less if the entire community is also suffering from the same thing. And that’s why you have Alcoholic Anonymous groups and other kinds of community healing groups to share and alleviate individual suffering.

The Big Question

There are lots of questions that everyone is struggling and rightly so. Because we have never experienced anything like this before in our living memory. It is a massive shock to the entire system of unprecedented scale and suffering. Its happening all over the world — the big rich nations are also going through the same suffering and pain, as the poor under-developed and developing nations. No one is excluded — Adults of all ages, Politicians, Celebrities, VIPs, etc. It’s the biggest equalizer the world has ever witnessed in recent times.

The virus does not spare anyone and does not discriminate basis age, gender, religion, country, status, etc.

If this is all overwhelming to you, then why is the fact that 17,000 kids dying every day does not overwhelm you? Why don’t you shudder or get worried?

Care To Look At The Other Side?

Let’s look at the number of deaths due to Covid-19. 300,000 deaths in 4 months. Which is bigger, 2500 deaths/day or 17,000 children deaths/day? Let me break it down further — that’s 1 kid dying every 5 seconds. I will give you a moment to pause and think about it.

And here is the thing, if you actually paused right now to think about it, (which would be roughly 5 seconds) 1 kid has died while you were thinking.

In 2017 alone, an estimated 6.3 Million children and young adolescents died, mostly from preventable causes. Children under age 5 accounted for 5.4 Million of these deaths — with 2.5 Million deaths occurring in the 1st month of life, 1.6 Million at age 1–11 months, and 1.3 Million at age 1−4 years. An additional 0.9 Million deaths occurred among children aged 5−14.

Importantly, 85% of the 6.3 Million deaths in 2017 occurring in the first 5 years itself. That’s a staggering 5.4 Million kids dead even before they could wear a school bag. Out of this, newborns accounted for around 50% of the deaths. That’s 2.7 Million newborns who did not even get a chance to smile and say Hello the world.

In 2017 alone, some 4.4 Million kids lives would have been saved had under-5 mortality in each country been as low as in the lowest mortality country in the region. The total number of under-5 deaths would have been reduced to 1 million. Imagine 5.4 Million kids who could have grown into adults and enjoyed a life just like you.

These unfortunate children continue to face widespread regional and income disparities in their chances of survival. Sub-Saharan Africa remains the region with the highest under-5 mortality rate in the world. In 2017, the region had an average under 5 mortality rate of 76 deaths per 1,000 live births.

This translates to 1 in 13 children dying before his or her 5 birthday — 14 times higher than the average ratio of 1 in 185 in high-income countries and 20 times higher than the ratio of 1 in 263 in the region of Australia and New Zealand, which has the lowest regional under- 5 mortality rate.

A baby born in sub-Saharan Africa or in Southern Asia is 9 times more likely to die in the first month than a baby born in a high-income country

On current trends, 56 million children under 5 years of age are projected to die between 2018 and 2030. Out of this almost 50% of them will be newborns. Refer to the full report here.

So why is this not a bigger problem that needs efforts on a war footing? Why are these numbers not being flashed out every second like a stock market ticker? Why is the media not going crazy? Why are governments not declaring a state of emergency and implementing measures on a war footing to reduce the mortality rates of children?

Children Are Not Key Contributors

One of the key reasons is that- newborns, toddlers, children are not yet seen as “Contributors” to the society at large. They are zero contributors to the economy in present time. They don’t create any shock in the overall system (unlike what CoronaVirus has done so rapidly)

They don’t play any part in the growth or development of the economy. How can they? They have not even learned to speak or walk.

Not saying that the governments see them as as burden of any nature. But they are not adding any dollar value to the economy. It’s the same as any adult — if you are not contributing any dollar value to the the government’s coffers, then what is your worth? And if you are not of any value to the government, then why is the government going to be concerned whether you live or die?(Hence you will also notice that mortality rates of people who are below the poverty line are higher in most of the countries. Reasons — One is affordability and second is lack of enough government financial aid to support their treatments. This segment population is mostly ignored and left to fend for themselves)

Compared to that, adults are already contributing to the world economy and keeping the world machinery in motion. If they stop working, the economy comes to a grinding halt as has happened right now due to the CoronaVirus.

This creates a domino effect for governments across the world, so much of investments sit idle for long periods, outputs drop significantly, capacity utilization in industries and factories take a nose dive, demand drops, supply chains are blocked, no movement of cargo and people, stock markets go into a free fall, financial markets go into a tailspin. Overall it’s a worst kind of nightmare for governments.

The governments are dependent in a very direct way on you — “The Contributors” of the society — not because they care or they love you. But because adults add that dollar value to the government, which now is choked . They are forced to act. They want you alive (atleast some of you) to keep contributing to their economy and keep the wheels in motion. GDP numbers matter.

Children don’t do any of these. Hence they are not seen as Contributors

Fear Comes To Town

Because the CoronaVirus spreads through contact, the fear is even bigger amongst adults. We human beings are social creatures, we thrive on social connects (not on social distancing), we love to move around, shake hands, touch/hug/embrace other people.

Human Civilization is a contact sport. The more the contact, the more we grow.

We may not think about it everyday (until now) but socializing is what keeps us going. And now that we are not being allowed to connect socially in the real world — we fear. We watch the CoronaVirus ticker every few minutes — whether the death rates have gone up or down. Has the infection slowed down or reduced in countries, has it hit my city, how many numbers in my city, how many have turned positive, etc.

This nature of data and statistics is helping put pressure on governments to take all necessary actions to stop the spread and treat the ones who are already infected. It is also driving governments to take decisions at a much faster pace and initiate war time efforts to reduce the number of people who are dying. And immense efforts are being made to develop a vaccine against this virus.

Until that happens, we can only hope and pray that the mortality rates get reduced by some intermediate treatment on which WHO has been working on with 4 megatrials

You see, this time the fear has arrived at our doorsteps. It has arrived in developed and wealthy nations. It has entered into the fancy homes of rich and famous, the board rooms, etc. This is not something that is happening in some remote part of the world such as Africa or some poor nation.

So we are now taking the spread of the virus seriously. Remember just few weeks back we weren’t taking it seriously and even making fun because it was all happening in China. Fear has overtaken funny memes, because this time it up close and personal. This could hit you (I hope it doesn’t).

And hence we are compelled to read about it, talk about it, watch the ticker and share that information with everyone.

Media Buzzez As It Pleases

And top it all, the Media is really not running daily tickers about child mortality rates, are they? The TV channels are not running hot debates with every single expert or politician that they can find on the street.

Death of 1 kid every 5 seconds is not Breaking news. It does not impact the Stock Market. It does impact GDP Numbers. It does not ground Airplanes. It does not halt the Travel & Leisure businesses. It does not bring the traffic and life on hold in our cities. Hence it is not interesting. Its not a crisis. Its not going to catch fire and go viral.

Additionally, Social Media networks are not going crazy with people posting data and news about the mortality numbers of kids. Twitter feeds are not bombarded with millions of people (self proclaimed journalists and experts) reporting “Covid-19” related news.

Instagram is not going berserk with people and celebrities banging their utensils and clapping from their balconies for the doctors, nurses and other people who are on the ground taking care of the kids in hospitals, as they did for the doctors and nurses who are treating CoronaVirus infected people (yes, this happened in India).

Whatsapp and Messaging Platforms are not buzzing with notifications and funny or sarcastic memes, no one is forwarding videos or images of kids in hospitals. No one is copying/pasting daily mortality charts

What’s Next?

If any of the WHO representatives, Center for Disease Control representatives, John Hopkins Hospital authorities, UNICEF representatives, World Bank Group representatives, Government Authorities, Politicians, Celebrities, Media and Publication professionals, TV News professionals, Journalists, etc are reading this article — then I urge each one of you

  • to start publishing daily mortality numbers of children who are dying due to preventable and treatable causes.
  • Publishing daily mortality rates of kids country-wise is exactly the kind of information that media houses need to put out there for their readers and viewers, so that the gravity of the situation is highlighted. This is where Media can use its reach, influence and strength
  • Start a dashboard that captures data and statistics every second just as you are doing for the Covid-19 infections
  • Run media campaigns and publish daily numbers so it creates a sense of urgency amongst people
  • Start Twitter feeds with the number of children dying every day and
  • Importantly bring this to a point that these deaths are treated as an Emergency by governments.

By taking some these steps and more, it will push people and governments to take action on a war footing to avoid children dying daily in such massive numbers in every country

Final Thoughts

At the beginning of this article I had mentioned that 17,000 children die everyday mostly due to “preventable and treatable causes”. Covid-19 is not treatable hence people are dying.

Contrary to that, 17,000 kids continue to die everyday even though their conditions are “preventable and treatable”.

We don’t know when this pandemic will end or how it will end. But am sure about this — we have time at our hands now to think and act on something that we can prevent.

With this I leave it to you decide — what is more devastating? And what needs to be shared more with everyone.

Data Source  Mortality estimates released by UNICEF, the World Health Organization (WHO), the United Nations Population Division and the World Bank Group.

You may also like