O Me of Little Faith

So as of yesterday, there were 1516 confirmed swine flu cases world-wide, 642 cases in the United States, and two deaths. (Both deaths were in Texas, and both victims also had “underlying health problems” in addition to the swine flu.)

Supposedly the pandemic is declining, but for the last two weeks we’ve been subject to more coverage than anyone needed about the disease, and where it came from, and how to prevent it, and What It All Means. And any death is meaningful — the last thing I want to do is minimize the two American deaths and the other international ones — but let’s put swine flu in perspective.

We’ve got 1500 cases of it around the world. 642 in the U.S. Yet schools are closing, proms are being canceled, people are buying masks, and you’re wondering whether you should bury your gold in your backyard and get your shotgun ready. The 24-hour media cycle makes everyone panicky and apocalyptic. But in about ten minutes of Googling (and Swagbucking) I was able to find 10 statistics that I think we ought to focus on more than swine flu.

Why don’t we get panicky about these stats instead?

1. There are over 15 million children orphaned by AIDS around the world.

2. Two million people die each year from AIDS, which is preventable. That’s one every 15 seconds.

3. There are easily hundreds of thousands of child soldiers forced into service each year by government military groups, armed militias, or drug cartels.

4. Every day, 4,400 children die because they don’t have access to clean drinking water.

5. Every year, 1.5 to 3 million people die from malaria, a preventable disease. 90 percent of them live in Africa.

6. Over the past five years, over 400,000 civilians have been killed in Darfur. Of these killings, 97% have been against innocent civilians and executed by militia groups instructed by the government.

7. Five million children worldwide die each year because of hunger and malnutrition.

8. Around 2.2 million children die each year because they are not immunized.

9. According to UNICEF, up to 30,000 children die each day from poverty-related factors. That’s 18 children dying every minute. One child every three seconds.

10. It is estimated that there are approximately 27 million slaves around the world today. About half of them are under the age of 18.


Again, let’s not diminish the victims of swine flu. But what if we gave the above statistics the same attention — at the national media level as well as the local level — as we are giving swine flu? What would result?

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