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Survive to five

By Andy Griffiths - posted Monday, 5 October 2009

When I was five-years-old, I believed that toys could talk, chairs could fly and that mysterious, magical lands existed at the tops of trees.

I dreamed of owning a faithful dog like Timmy in Enid Blyton’s Famous Five books to accompany me on long, rambling adventures through the countryside. Instead, I ended up with a stray black mongrel who chased cars, bit passers-by and fought other dogs in the neighbourhood.

My favourite meal was bread with dripping and honey, washed down with a glass of chocolate milk while I voyaged through the galaxy with the Robinson family from the television show, Lost in Space. And I had high hopes for the future - I wanted to be a comic book writer, Batman and a magician.


In fact, my father spent many hours teaching me magic tricks, such as how to fool people into thinking that I’d cut off my finger. He and my mother acted suitably amazed during my nightly magic shows.

Without being consciously aware of it, my parents nurtured my curiosity, which helped me develop my imagination well into adulthood - a necessary attribute as a children’s book writer.

Like all children aged five and under, my body and brain grew rapidly during this period. This is when language skills develop and the foundations are laid for future health or sickness.

In fact, a child’s survival also depends on the health and wellbeing of their parents. When mothers have access to healthcare, education and economic opportunity, just as my mum did, it gives their children the best chance to thrive during their formative years.

But many children worldwide are not as fortunate as I was. In fact, 8.8 million children die each year before they reach their fifth birthday - that’s more than 24,000 children every day who can no longer aspire to be an astronaut, a fireman or Superman.

For many of these children, particularly in the poorest countries in Asia and Africa, their fate is sealed by a lack of access to basic health services. This year, more than five million young children and newborn babies will die needlessly from easily preventable and treatable conditions. The five main causes of death in children under five are malnutrition, malaria, vaccine preventable diseases, pneumonia and diarrhoea.


The Australian Government’s focus on better access to health care in the Asia-Pacific region should be commended. And the increase in development assistance for the world’s poorest countries is also a step in right direction, from 0.34 per cent of gross national income in 2009-10 to 0.5 per cent in 2015-16.

But more urgent action is needed.

The Australian Government should match the generosity of other developed countries to help developing countries because the global economic crisis, conflict and natural disasters are increasingly placing vulnerable communities under pressure.

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Today Save the Children in Australia launches the Survive to Five campaign to reduce child mortality across the globe.

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About the Author

Andy Griffiths is a children’s book author and an ambassador for Save the Children in Australia.

Creative Commons LicenseThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons License.

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