More 5th Birthdays!

Birthdays are always worth celebrating.

Even when you've had a lousy week and you wake up at 2am on your birthday with a terrible stomach bug (ie, my birthday-sick-in-bed yesterday), it is worth celebrating a year of life and the prospect of another one ahead. Because even if you feel crappy on this particular day, you never really know if you will get to mark another birthday.

Despite my tendency to puking, I got to celebrate my birthday yesterday with friends and family, and I even managed to stay upright for our entire party. It was a good day all in all.

Celebrating my birthday with my best friend.
More than 15 years of shared birthdays with bigjoefick!

I have decided, though, that what I really want most for my birthday is more 5th birthdays. In fact, that's what I want for Christmas too. More 5th birthdays.

Not for me, of course… I had a great 5th year of life, and I have had many more birthdays since that 5th one.

5-year-old Doctor V practicing sewing skills (I should have been a surgeon!)

What I want are more 5th birthdays for children in the parts of the world where a 5th birthday is far too rare. I want 5th birthdays for the SEVEN MILLION children who die each year before they reach that precious milestone. (The deaths of SEVEN MILLION children under the age of 5 EVERY YEAR deserves capital letters!)

We know how to get these fifth birthdays. The gifts for the party are pretty simple. A vaccine that prevents pneumonia. A basic treatment for diarrhea. A bednet to keep out the mosquitoes that carry malaria. The breathing mask to help a newborn baby take their first breaths. The antiretroviral medicines that prevent a baby from getting HIV. $30 would buy the entire set of gifts. And these gifts would prevent the most common causes of those 7 million deaths of little ones who are not getting to 5.

I love five-year-olds. They are curious and funny and brimming with enthusiasm about all of life. I want the world to have more five-year-olds! USAID has a campaign that Every Child Deserves a Fifth Birthday, and I am completely on board.

I can think of a few ways to help with more 5th birthdays this year. Some of my favorite organizations in Kenya work very hard, investing in individual children to make sure they reach their fifth birthdays and more besides. I would put these organizations -- and the 5th birthdays they provide -- on my birthday and Christmas wish list:

  • Samro School. A primary school run by my Kenyan parents and providing educational opportunities to their rural community.
  • Living Room International. A hospice and palliative care program that also provides intensive care for malnourished children in desperate straits.
  • AMPATH. (Of course, this is the organization with which I work and which hosts this blog, but very much on my list.) AMPATH provides both primary care at a community level saving babies' lives, as well as the kind of specialized HIV care and services that sick children need to make it to five years.
5-year-old Doctor V. writing a story while on a plane. (Nothing has changed!)
5-year-old Joshua. I want to see what he will be when he grows up!
Posted at 11:53


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