Communications blogs
Published 18 August 2011

There are people behind the numbers

This photograph was taken in a graveyard on

the outskirts of Freetown, Sierra Leone.

I accompanied Chris Tarrant, the TV and radio presenter, to film the ITV show Born to Shine, which highlights the work we do. I've been to various countries with Save the Children, but this trip was especially emotional - I think because it was so obvious what simple solutions are needed to stop so many people dying needlessly.

Source: Aubery Wade/Save the Children

The woman to the left of Chris is Memanatu. She was building up the grave of her daughter Sarah who had died a fortnight earlier from an infection. It was the second daughter Memanatu had lost; her eldest daughter had died in childbirth earlier this year. A week after she lost Sarah, Memanatu's granddaughter Adama contracted a fever and died within a day.

This isn't unusual in Sierra Leone. It has some of the worst statistics for child and maternal survival in the world, and has just a tenth of the health workers it needs. One in five children die before their fifth birthday. One of the most common causes of death is diarrhoea.

On paper, it's really easy to read these statistics and disengage with the reality behind them. But when you sit down with a 30-year-old woman - the same age as me - who fights back tears as she tells you she's buried her two children, the reality sinks in.

It is not because of mysterious killer viruses or sweeping outbreaks of cholera: deaths here are caused by upset tummies and pneumonia. It's because, when a child looses fluid, there are no rehydration salts to give them. So they get weaker and weaker and often die.

My challenge is to make people emotionally connect with people such as Memanatu and help agencies like Save the Children. It is a really tough challenge when these hardships are unimaginable in the UK. I don't think people believe they can help, but it is the simple things that make all the difference. Five pounds will pay for 50 doses of rehydration salts - that's all it takes to save a life.

Amy Burns is PR manager for Save the Children.

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