Sport Relief and A Child With Malaria
Tonight I am watching Sport Relief on BBC1. It is a lot like Comic Relief, with the emphasis on sport instead of comedy. Celebrities and ordinary citizens are raising money to help disadvantaged children, both at home in the UK and in developing countries like Africa and India. The total raised so far is over £16,000,000. The end total will be far in excess of this.
My son has gone to bed now. For a while, he was watching with me. We watched James Corden, of Gavin and Stacey, visit a hospital somewhere in Africa. Every day, children are lost to malaria. That day, we learned, six children had died. A motionless baby was carried out covered by a blanket. A three year old boy, who was alive at the beginning of the clip, had been carried for nine hours by his grandmother to reach the hospital. James Corden spoke to the family and wished for a happy outcome. By the end of the clip, he too had passed away.
Just five pounds could have prevented the death of these children. Five pounds is all it costs to provide the mosquito net which would have stopped the child contracting malaria. What does five pounds mean to you or I? A cake and a coffee in Starbucks? A taxi ride home instead of walking in the rain? A bottle of wine on a Friday evening?
Of course, we all know already of the problems faced by children in poverty stricken places such as Africa. A lot of the time, though, we forget. In the back of our minds, we know that it is happening, but we do not personally associate with it. We don't feel the pain or the fear or the sadness of these people. We see a picture on the news or in a newspaper, but it is one of many seen before. We feel sad for a moment, but then we carry on with our lives and forget.
Televised events like Sport Relief and Comic Relief remind us of the terrible situations faced by real people in our world of inequality. People are dying of diseases which could be cured by drugs costing less than a pound. Children have lost both parents to AIDS and are left fending for themselves - and I mean completely for themselves. Women and unborn children are dying in maternity hospitals which are woefully equipped to deal with problems.
As I write this, my children are tucked into comfortable beds, warm and safe and nourished. How would I feel if they were not? How would I feel if I could not be sure they would even wake in the morning; if I could not even take them to a doctor if they were ill?
When our children are born they are like little miracles in our arms. We stare down at their innocent, searching faces and wonder how they will turn out. We wonder what their personality will be like; what they will enjoy; what they will look like. We wish for them the most wonderful future. We want everything for them. If it came to it, we would die for them.
That little three year old boy who lost his life to malaria was someone's child. Just because he was born into dire poverty did not make him any less loved. He, too, was someone's little miracle. He had a personality. He had feelings. He had fears. Perhaps he jumped and ran and laughed. Perhaps he played with his brothers and sisters. Perhaps he cuddled up to his mother.
My son, who was watching with me, is a typical British child. He wants a lot of things. He has a lot of things. He does not need anything that he doesn't have already. He does not want for a comfortable house, or food, or healthcare. He has education, which he doesn't yet appreciate. Yet when he saw that clip, of the terrible consequences caused by a lack of cheap mosquito nets, he was both moved and horrified. He decided it was the UK Governments responsibilty to provide every mosquito net needed. Of course, he has no real grasp of politics as yet, but he insisted that we donate to Sport Relief immediately. So we did.
That is why programmes like Sport Relief are so important. Yes, such events have been organised time and time again. Yes, we have seen it all before. We are already aware of many of these problems, yet we forget about them in the humdrum of our busy lives. We get caught up in other things. We do care, but we forget. We need reminding - just because we were lucky enough to be born into civilisation and relative privilige does not mean that we, or our children, are any more important.