The Miracle in Africa – Declining Child Mortality Rates thanks to Robust Economic Activity

Posted by PITHOCRATES - May 13th, 2012

Week in Review

We have poured enormous amounts of aid into Africa.  Celebrities have championed African causes.  To get more charitable donations.  And to shame governments in advanced economies to provide more aid.  Little of this has helped.  But here is something that has (see Africa’s Child Health Miracle: The Biggest, Best Story in Development by Michael Clemens posted 5/4/2012 on the Center for Global Development).

These shocking new numbers are in a paper released today by Gabriel Demombynes and Karina Trommlerová in the Kenya office of the World Bank. Here are their figures for some of the recent changes in rates of child death across the continent. The numbers in the last column are the percent declines in child death rates every year over the past few years.

This is a stunningly rapid decline, and nothing like it was occurring even as recently as the first half of the decade. For comparison, the Millennium Development Goal of a 2/3 decline in child mortality between 1990 and 2015 translates into a 4.3…percent annual decline in child mortality. In other words, the above countries are collectively reducing child mortality at an annual rate much greater than the rate called for by the Millennium Development Goals. They are doing this across hundreds of millions of people, across a vast landscape of hundreds of thousands of villages and cities.

These numbers originally come from the DHS Surveys, which are free and open-access. The paper’s authors investigate the reasons for the decline in Kenya alone, and conclude that in Kenya it results from a combination of broad public health efforts and the recent robust economic growth across the region.

With all the public health aid going to Africa all these decades it would appear that these miraculous reductions in child mortality rates has more to do with that robust economic growth.  It’s the improvement in their standard of living.  Which affords them better living conditions and better public health.  For it is no coincident that the healthiest countries are also the most prosperous countries.  Where wealth can build hospitals and clinics.  Pharmaceutical companies and drug stores.  And modern cities where there is no malaria. 

This is the greatest gift we can give to an impoverished people.  Free market capitalism.  Which empowers people.  Makes them the masters of their own destiny.  By raising their standard of living.  Without having to depend on celebrities or governments.  Who can take it away just as easily as they can give it to them.  But if they create this wealth on their own?  That’s a different story.  They will be independent.  And never again will they have to depend on the kindness of others just so their children can survive childhood.

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