Going the distance to help curb infant deaths

Going the distance to help curb infant deaths
Mr Matt Jones, across the road from the Woodlands Train Checkpoint, where he started his Singapore run on 1 October 2014.

SINGAPORE - Can one person really make a difference? Rather than dwell on this question, Australian Matt Jones has put on his running shoes and hit the road.

The 46-year-old social entrepreneur is doing 24km runs in 10 cities to raise awareness about infant mortality.

He completed the first two legs - one in Sydney where he lives and one in Port Moresby in Papua New Guinea - last month, and was in Singapore yesterday.

He ran from the north of the island, near the Causeway, to Palawan Beach in Sentosa, the southernmost point in Continental Asia.

Mr Jones, a former major in the Australian army, will go next to Osaka, Glasgow, Johannesburg, Delhi, Beijing (on the Great Wall) and New York.

He will finish in Seoul on Oct 24 to coincide with United Nations Day. A public forum is planned in Seoul to address infant mortality concerns.

"Surviving our childhood is something most of us take for granted, and yet, this year, around 6.4 million children will die before their fifth birthday," he said.

According to the United States Central Intelligence Agency's World Factbook, Afghanistan, Mali and Somalia have the world's highest infant mortality rate of more than 100 deaths per 1,000 live births.

"Anything above 40 is considered high," Mr Jones said, noting that more than 50 countries fall into this group.

Singapore, along with Norway and Japan, are among those with the lowest infant mortality rates, with fewer than three deaths per 1,000 births.

Mr Jones' nephew, who died in 2001 within 36 hours of being born, was the catalyst for his cause.

"Carrying his body in a small box with my brother, I asked myself, 'Why should this be? Could something have been done to prevent this?'

"Everybody could do something about the environment. But I've chosen to focus on child mortality because of its very nature - the children who die have no ability to defend themselves. Most deaths occur in the first 48 hours."

Yet, most infant deaths are preventable through "simple and inexpensive interventions", he said, such as improved family and community care.

Mr Jones is publishing a book on his journey. He is seeking crowd-funding and has raised more than A$8,000 (S$8,900) of the A$14,860 he will incur in expenses for his endeavour.

His blog www.indiegogo.com/projects/the-10-city-bridge-run has more details.

christan@sph.com.sg


This article was first published on October 2, 2014.
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