Cutting through the bullshit.

Sunday, 22 April 2007

Delta blues

As a lot of people know, the UN has instituted a program of Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), which set standards for achieving certain targets across a range of development indicators that they have identified by the year 2015. One of these indicators is the Infant Mortality Rate (IMR), the proportion of ‘infants dying before reaching the age of one year per 1,000 live births in a given year.’

According to Indicators for Monitoring the Millennium Development Goals: Definitions Rationale Concepts and Sources (UN, 2003), the rationale for collecting IMR is that

Infant mortality rates measure child survival. They also reflect the social, economic and environmental conditions in which children (and others in society) live, including their health care. Since data on the incidence and prevalence of diseases (morbidity data) frequently are unavailable, mortality rates are often used to identify vulnerable populations.

According to the MDG website, in 2004 IMR ranged from 165 per 1000 live births per year in Afghanistan, the same as in 2000, doubtless thanks to the US invasion and concomitant full liberation of Afghan women, and Sierra Leone, down to 2 per 1000 per year in Iceland. It may be of interest that the UK, Australia, and New Zealand have pretty good records on this indicator, with 5/1000. Cuba, with 6/1000, scores a little better than the US with 7/1000. (Note that the MDG figures differ rather significantly from the 2007 estimates in the CIA World Factbook and Wikipedia.)

But that 7/1000 ratio is just the tip of the iceberg. Erik Eckholm, writes in this morning’s NY Times, ‘The national average in 2003 was 5.7 for whites and 14.0 for blacks.’ That 14/1000 figure puts Blacks in the US in the same league as those in Mauritius. Curiously, the Eckholm article claims that the most recent national figure from the US are for 2003, while the MDG table claims 2004 data. In any case, more recent data are available at a state and county level. Specifically, ‘In Mississippi, infant deaths among blacks rose to 17 per thousand births in 2005 from 14.2 per thousand in 2004’. An IMR of 17/1000 puts Mississippi Blacks in with Albania and Vietnam. A Venezuelan or Syrian mother has a better chance of seeing her baby survive to see its first birthday. And that was two years ago, with an apparently very steep increase in progress.

And that’s the state average. ‘In the past 10 years, the infant mortality rate for blacks in most of the Delta has averaged about 14 per thousand in some counties and more than 20 per thousand in others.’ Tonga has an IMR of 20/1000, it’s a higher rate than claimed for Colombia or Lybia.

“I don’t think the rise is a fluke, and it’s a disturbing trend, not only in Mississippi but throughout the Southeast,” said Dr. Christina Glick, a neonatologist in Jackson, Miss., and past president of the National Perinatal Association.

That’s how the most powerful, prosperous, democratic, and free country in history treats Southern Black women and children, among the most vulnerable members of American society.

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