12 January 2009

The World's Children: Liability or Legacy?

One third of all people living on earth today are children under the age of 15. Eighty percent of these children live in the poor and underveloped parts of the world.

In some countries they make up over half the population. Millions of them live in poverty and squalor, without proper health care, and without hope. They are growing up sick and illiterate.

Many major nations have embarked on ambitious programs to stem the tide of extra mouths. One of the best known examples is the one-child-per-couple policy effect in the Peoples Republic of China.

The chinese were headed for a catastrophe. Their population doubled just since the Revolution of 1949. To counteract this, the Chinese government decided to attempt to restrict all couples to only one child. Parents who agree to restrict their families receive certain economic benefits. Parents who have larger families are penalized by fines and lack of certain privileges. Although this may seem heartless, the Chinses point out that those who cooperate wth the one child program should not have to bear the cost of other families' extra mouths.

Reports indicate that the policy will stabilize China's population by the year 2000. But even now with the comparatively modest birthrate of 1.2 percent, China adds the equivalent of Australia's population each year.

Millions of Chinese mothers, many in the later stages of pregnancy, have had abortions. These are also disturbing reports of infantiside of girls. Chinese tradition values sons, and may have taken drastic steps to ensure that their one permitted child is male. It is hard to prove, but the Chinese do admit that in some rural aread there seems to be a disproportionate amount of male births reported.

In Asia today hundreds of thousands of children go blind every year because of eye diseases that would take only a few cents worth of vitamin A to correct. A few more pennies would provide the vitamin D and calcium that would stop the deformed and twisted limbs caused by rickets.

Millions die of easily cures and even more easily prevented disease - because they have no access to even minimal health care. In the slum areas just outsude the modern city of Nairobi, capital of Kenyam hundreds of children played amidst piles of rubbish.
Kenya. has the world's highest birthrate, and must urgently find a solution to its growing population of children. These cheerful children had no idea that they were surplus or that they had been born into a world that may have no place for them.

They face a desperate future. There are not enough places for them to go to school - and insufficient jobs for those that do somehow get an education. They are, as humans view it, a liability for their already hard pressed nation.

In the slums of Calcutta, one can sometimes hear a piteos sound coming from the mounds of garbage and trash that line the streets of that desperately overcrowded city. sometimes it is an abandoned kitten. Sometimes it is a newborn baby abandoned in its first hours of life by parents who knew they could not care for it.

Some of these babies are discovered and are blessed to be taken to the orphanage. The tiny, fragile scraps of humanity are lovingly cared for by those who struggle in the orphanage to preserve each infant's spark of life. Sometimes they succeed and they continue to care for the children during their first years of life. And then? "We must let them go back to the streets where they came from. There are always other children we must save. We wish it were not that way."

Significant sums of money are given every year by wealthier countries to help the poorer nations care for their children. But it is only scratching the surface. We are trapped in a system where more children are born that can be cared for. Is there nos way out of it?

Many children today are, tragically, a liability and a drain on their country's scant resources. That is no excuse for bringing more children now into situations where they can only know wretchedness and misery. In many parts of this sad world, a form of national population control is the only sensible alternative humans know. We should not want more children now if we cannt take care of those that we already have. But that does not mean that every method of population control is good. Some are certainly wrong. Wise family planning excludes abortion and infaticide!

Countless millions of children are already a liability. But that isn't their fault.




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