In the nation of South Africa, the incidence of neural tube defects is estimated to be between 1 in 500 to 1 in 800 births (according to SAIDA, the South African Inherited Disorders Association). The Independent Living Institute reported in a study that of 1,000 babies born in 2006 (presumably when the study was published– couldn’t verify the date, sorry), up to three could have spina bifida. It also reported that of the 1,000 live babies, 140 would die within five years.
You might infer that with such a high infant mortality rate, being born with myelomeningocele and/or hydrocephalus does not add to the child’s chances of survival. In truth, the statistics I attempted to delve into briefly were all over the place, but seemed to point to the hardships that young children– birth defect or no– in South Africa are confronted with.
It is precisely this reason that I wish to reach out to former South African president Nelson Mandela, whom I know I am seriously failing in my lack of an adequate introduction. The recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize in 1993, Mr. Mandela practically personifies the term “humanitarian.” Having been imprisoned for actively combating apartheid in his country, Mr. Mandela is a staunch advocate of civil liberties. He wholeheartedly supports AIDS-related initiatives, such as the ONE Campaign, and in 2003, began a fundraising campaign for AIDS called 46664, after his prison number. In 2005, Mandela lost his son to AIDS.
His own organization, the Nelson Mandela Foundation, is designed to preserve the rich history Mr. Mandela has played a critical role in making, and also to offer a “non-partisan platform for public discourse on important social issues, and in doing so contribute to policy decision-making.”
Indeed, Mr. Mandela’s views are far from being outdated. In fact, they are the future. His innovative and fearless approach to every aspect of life was recently portrayed in the film “Invictus,” which is based on the story of how he led the rugby team to victory in his racially-divided country.
He is an extraordinary man, to say the very least. I wish Mr. Mandela many blessings and good health!
Thank you Kims, Kevin and Mami for an awesome afternoon out today! I love you.