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David Soler Crespo, Assistant of research of the Navarra Center for International Development of the Institute for Culture and Society

When not understanding the prospectus can kill your child

In Sub-Saharan Africa, children are still dying due to lack of medical information. Their families do not know the treatments because they do not speak the language of the predominant ethnic group.

Fri, 23 Mar 2018 13:51:00 +0000 Published in Planeta Futuro El País

Read the instructions for this medicine and consult the pharmacist. But what do you do if you don't understand the instructions? Or worse, if you don't know those instructions and don't understand the pharmacist? Thousands of languages and ethnicities coexist in sub-Saharan Africa. Diversity is abundant, although dangerous for those who live in a region where their language is not similar to the predominant one. The infant mortality rate is higher among those of a different ethnicity from their neighbors and those who survive grow up stunted.

In Mali, a country of less than 18 million inhabitants, as many as 68 different languages are spoken, according to database Ethnologue. One of the most widely spoken is Tamasheq. Mariam and Anita are childhood friends and natives of this language, but they face completely different realities. Mariam shares language with her neighbors, while Anita lives in an area where Songhaykoyrachiini predominates, so she does not understand the prospect. They speak the same language, but Anita's children are more likely to die than Mariam's children.

Those who suffer the most from these effects are families who have never moved from their village. We are not talking about foreigners, but about those who do not know any other reality and have not been able to inform themselves elsewhere. Those who suffer the most are the local inhabitants who feel like foreigners in their own home.

Diarrhea kills nearly two million children under the age of five every year. One of the most direct causes is dehydration. Oral rehydration salts have proven to be one of the cheapest and most effective methods to save children who cannot count on adequate sanitary infrastructures in their country. However, there are many who do not know about them. researcher The research The Health Costs of Ethnic Distance: Evidence from Sub-Saharan Africa, led by the Navarra Center for International Development's (NCID) Joseph Gomes, estimates the health effects of being from a different ethnic family than the predominant one in your region.

Ethnic distance also has an effect on the growth of those who survive: lack of information on eating habits leading to malnutrition and diarrhea causing dehydration hinder growth and cause stunting in children, who grow shorter than average for their age.

One in nine children in sub-Saharan Africa dies before the age of five. Many lives can be saved in one easy way: by ensuring that information reaches everyone. Public policies must cover the entire population and not leave ethnic minorities stranded without vital medical information. Not one more child should die because they do not speak the same language as their neighbors.