Gun violence is the No. 1 killer of children; here are common-sense steps to address it (The Tennessean)

THE TENNESSEAN | The perfect storm of easy access to firearms combined with a pandemic-fueled mental health crisis has brought us to a boiling point.

On March 31, 9-year-old Evelyn Dieckhaus was scheduled to sing Louis Armstrong’s classic song “What A Wonderful World” at a play at Nashville’s Covenant School. Instead, country music artist Vince Gill stood in the sanctuary of Woodmont Christian Church and sang it at her funeral, just four days after the mass school shooting that devastated our hometown. 

We are a former U.S. Senate Majority Leader representing the State of Tennessee, a Nashville-based orthopaedic trauma surgeon who has treated far too many gunshot victims, and the pastor who officiated over Evelyn’s funeral. And we are begging – on behalf of those weeping in our nation’s pews and hospitals and on the steps of our corridors of power – for an end to America’s epidemic of firearms-driven death.   

We were heartened by recent news that Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee signed an executive order strengthening background checks and called on the state legislature to do more. But we, as a state and a nation, need to do more.

Read more at The Tennessean:

The global crisis of COVID orphanhood (The Hill)

THE HILL | The flood of Ukrainian refugees fleeing Russia’s brutal invasion reminds us that the pain of war often falls most heavily on those with the least ability to cope, especially children.

The same is true of our battle with COVID-19, which has now left over 7 million children worldwide suffering from the loss of a loving parent or grandparent caregiver. Urgent action is needed to protect these children from the many threats they face. The Biden-Harris administration can lead by using the U.S.-hosted Global COVID-19 Summit this spring to rally the world to care for the hidden victims of the pandemic.

COVID-19-associated orphanhood and caregiver loss are increasing at unparalleled speed, with one new child affected every six seconds. It took the HIV-AIDS pandemic 10 years for 5 million children to become orphaned; it’s taken COVID-19 just two years to top that tragedy.

While equitable vaccine coverage can slow the rates of caregiver deaths, the numbers of children affected by COVID-19 orphanhood will continue to rise, especially in Africa where less than 10 percent of the population has been fully vaccinated. The lack of strong social safety nets exposes these children to extreme threats, including abuse, violence, high-risk sexual behavior, and institutionalization. These risks increase when breadwinners die — a sobering fact given that 75 percent of COVID-19 orphanhood involves paternal death.

Most children losing a parent or primary caregiver to COVID-19 have a living relative who, with adequate support, could care for them. But the time to act is now. Early intervention with educational, economic, and parenting support is needed to ensure that each affected child benefits from the healing hands of a safe and nurturing family — and does not end up in institutional care.

Read the full article here:

Sen. Frist heads to Kenya to study famine’s effects

More than 29,000 young children have died of malnutrition and disease in Somalia in the past 90 days. We are now on our way to the Horn of Africa to see what more we as a nation can do.

Early this morning, our plane left Washington, D.C., bound for East Africa. I’m flying with Second Lady Dr. Jill Biden and USAID Administrator Raj Shah to study the famine’s effects on the lives of more than 12 million people, many of them children.

In fact, it is now being called “the children’s famine.”

Over the years, I have delivered medical care in refugee camps on a number of trips, both to camps in Darfur, in Chad (right on the border of Sudan), and in boy soldier camps in southern Sudan. I went as a doctor. Providing age-appropriate health care to the compromised and malnourished children and adults is crucial to combat rapidly spreading disease and death.

It begins with identifying the specific needs, which we will be doing, then ensuring access, which is a challenge especially in Somalia.

Aid agencies estimate that more than $1 billion more is needed during this critical period to stop further deaths and get proper food, water and health care especially to the children who are most vulnerable.

In the camps we visit, I will focus on the vaccinations given for measles, polio and malaria; oral rehydration distributed to those suffering from diarrhea; and vitamins for children to bolster their immune systems. These are simple, cheap interventions to fight disease in the malnourished. I am eager to learn what is being accomplished and what more needs to be done. America has done a lot which has lessened the unfolding tragedy in the region, but there is a lot more we can do to reverse the course underway.

We will learn much over the next few days. I am on this trip to hear the stories of the families and their journeys, and I will share those stories with you.

Please sign the ONE petition today to urge world leaders to provide the full funding that the UN has identified as necessary to help people in the Horn of Africa, and please keep your promises to deliver the long term solutions which could prevent crises like this from happening again.