Some 5.9 million children under the age of 5 died unnecessarily in 2015. And according to a new analysis, their gender — and the status of gender equality in their home countries — played a significant role in their odds of survival.
Normally — for reasons that are not yet fully understood — girls have a nearly 20 percent higher survival rate compared to boys, explained the lead researcher of the study, Valentina Gallo, professor of epidemiology at Queen Mary University of London’s Centre for Primary Care and Public Health. But in countries linked with high gender inequality — and especially lower- and middle-income countries — the researchers found that girls were dying at dramatically higher rates than expected. According to Gallo, the driving factor behind this discrepancy was that the lives of girls were being valued less than those of boys. In particular, poor families were less likely to spend money on health care for girls than for boys — in India, for example, girls are vaccinated at a significantly lower rate than boys.
“These girls are also further exposed to this risk via their mothers, who may themselves be penalized and valued less than mothers of sons and less able to provide for their daughters,” said Gallo.
Alexandra Rolland, sexual and reproductive health and rights policy adviser for the charity Plan International, added that the reality was probably even darker than what the study had found since many families didn’t bother to register the birth of girls or even to record their deaths. The worst part, she added, was these were lives that “are completely unnecessarily cut short.”
According to the paper’s authors, there is no clear solution to this problem besides working across fields to combat gender inequity. There needs to be a revolution, Gallo suggested, “from inside, prompted by both men and women to change the mentality.”
Read the full story at CNN.