World Day of Social Justice

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CHAMPS Surveillance Sites and Partnership Work

World Day of Social Justice

Preventing Child Deaths is real Social Justice… for all

February 20, 2018

"It’s unfortunate that barriers exist between people and health – things like policy and lack of resources. However, like the window, these barriers are not completely impermeable and can be taken down with effort from both sides."  Barriers by Rita Jen | Emory University Rollins School of Public Health c/o Emory Global Health Institute Global Health Student Photography Contest

"We all have a moral responsibility, let alone a public health responsibility, to keep babies alive to adolescence. ”

- Alan Lopez


Alan Lopez, Professor Laureate at the University of Melbourne serves as a Global Partners Board Member, and in an interview reminds us of the importance of CHAMPS for families, communities, and the world.  


Champions for social justice


Since 1990 significant strides have been made in the global

“CHAMPS is important because it helps promote that reality [of reduced child morality] and our obligation to do something about it.” – Alan Lopez

efforts to reduce under-five mortality rate. According to the WHO, the global under-five mortality rate has dropped by 56% in the last 26 years, from 93 deaths per 1000 live births in 1990 to 41 deaths per 1000 live births in 2016. However, better progress is still needed as approximately 15,000 under-five deaths occur every day, which means nearly six million children never celebrate their fifth birthday in the places where CHAMPS works.


“Very few children die in the United States or Australia or the United Kingdom because we have effective treatments available and we have the health systems to deliver them. Why can’t we be doing the same in other parts of the world?”

Every day the Child Health and Mortality Prevention Surveillance (CHAMPS) network is acutely aware of the millions of children who die before their fifth birthday. Young lives are cut short, in some cases to only a few hours, because in low-resource countries in Sub-Saharan Africa and Asia many children are defenseless against preventable ailments like pneumonia, diarrhea, and malaria. Sadly, for many, the cause of death remains a mystery, and surviving family members are left behind with no explanation and no understanding – no justice for their child and without the knowledge required to help them protect future children.


Every child deserves the opportunity to live and thrive beyond the age of five.

This mother lost two of her children: one died when she had eclampsia and the other due to a miscarriage after only four months. The mother told us that if her baby did not survive her husband might leave her. With her infant in tow, who was born prematurely at 30 weeks, she and her husband travelled a great distance in an effort to save their baby. First, they travelled by boat. Then, they carried the newborn until they could find a rickshaw to take them the rest of the way. Sadly, even the best, private, facility available in such a rural area couldn’t save the child. Wrapped in raw cotton, the child survived for three days and died three hours after this photo was taken. “Mother and 30wk Infant” – Shauna Mettee, Neil Hodgson Woodruff School of Nursing and Rollins School of Public Health, | Emory University Rollins School of Public Health c/o Emory Global Health Institute Global Health Student Photography Contest


Many parents in low-resource countries, where child mortality rates are highest, are at a much higher risk of losing their child, and may never know the reason why their son or daughter died. This is due to gaps in disease surveillance, death registries, and inadequate health care systems that not only fail to save lives, but also fail to provide necessary insight needed to help prevent deaths and provide answers.


"As a mother, I couldn’t imagine the grief of losing a child much less not know why they died,” said Ellen Whitney, U.S. Office Director for the International Association of National Public Health Institutes. “CHAMPS gives parents a form of closure - what every parent deserves.”


The United Nations prioritized reducing child mortality in its 2015 Sustainable Development Goals and declared February 20th as World Day of Social Justice: a day to support efforts for access to social well-being and justice for all. At CHAMPS we use this day to bring attention to the inequality that so many children are subjected to because they were born in an area where access to healthcare, clean water, and basic resources are limited. Unlike children in the United States, children die at a rate of 1 in 5 in the parts of the world where most of our network lives and works. This level of injustice and disparity is what motivates CHAMPS to carry out our mission to use innovative approaches to generate and share knowledge that improves understanding and prevention of child mortality.


Social justice for all

CHAMPS believes in a world where all children are able to thrive, a world without health inequality. We work to equip our network and partners with data that will allow them to identify and remedy gaps in health care and resources to attack health inequality at the source.


At the community level, CHAMPS also works with families that have lost children to help them understand why their child has died, and to give them closure.


“We are bringing closure to families, and answers to families that are asking themselves, why?” said Richard Chawana, the Senior Program Manager for South Africa.


Chores’, Rita Jen | Emory University Rollins School of Public Health c/o Emory Global Health Institute Global Health Student Photography Contest

“Through the CHAMPS process, people begin to understand how diseases and infections are passed on, and what has to be done in the future to prevent such things from happening,” said Chawana on the value of the CHAMPS’ network. “The most important thing is that we are providing solutions and answers to families.”


On this World Social Justice Day we cast a light on this injustice that we are working to change, not just today, but every day.



Photos used in this article are from the EGHI Global Health Student Photography Contest. The purpose of EGHI's Global Health Student Photography Contest is to foster cultural sensitivity by encouraging Emory students conducting global health projects to examine the culture and people with whom they are working. Students from across the Emory campus have participated in this contest, which is sponsored by Mr. Bob Yellowlees, an Atlanta business leader, philanthropist, and photographer who founded Lumière Gallery. In addition to capturing both a global health message and creating a photographic work of art, EGHI also asks Emory students to consider ethical issues when taking pictures of people in low- and middle-income countries.