Mortality, Burial, and Parental Attitudes
1 A Brief History of Child Mortality
A Brief History of Child Mortality
Infancy, like old age, was a time to die.1
Before investigating the sociological and psychological reactions of a society, and specifically parents, to the death of a child, it is helpful to frame the discussion within the matter of actual mortality among regions across time. This chapter gives an overview of conditions that existed during times, and in places, where child mortality was particularly high. This chapter does not seek to provide a complete history of child mortality. Throughout this book wherever possible I provide mortality rates, but these numbers should be accepted with caution as they can drastically change in one country within just a few decades. Social and political changes often facilitate the decrease of mortality rates and these efforts will also be discussed.
Achieving one’s fifth birthday is an extraordinary milestone in many developing countries, and is usually indicative of a life that is likely to mature to a healthy adulthood. In fact, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), the mortality of children under the age of five is the leading indicator of overall health and development of countries. At the United Nations’ 2000 Millennium Summit, 189 world leaders committed themselves to ending “extreme poverty” by 2015 by addressing eight specific Goals.2 Millennium Goal 4 calls for reducing the under-five mortality rate by two thirds between 1990 and 2015. ← 9 | 10 → The United Nations Inter-agency Group notes that substantial...
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