On June 14, the governments of the U.S., Ethiopia and India, in collaboration with the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), convened more than 700 global leaders and public health experts to achieve an ambitious, yet achievable goal – ending preventable child deaths.
The Call to Action was a momentous occasion for the child survival community. For many, the aura surrounding the event and the 5th Birthday campaign was reminiscent of the child survival revolution launched by James Grant in his 1982 annual State of the World’s Children report. It provided a new sense of purpose and urgency to the cause of child survival.
In the past 40 years, thanks to advances in science, technology, service delivery and programs that create informed demand for health services, child deaths have been reduced by more than 50 percent. The Call to Action challenged the global community to do even more – to reduce child mortality to below 20 child deaths or fewer per 1,000 live births in every country by 2035. Reaching this goal will save an estimated 50 million children by 2035, pushing us ever closer to ending preventable child deaths in our lifetime.
Evidence has shown that we have, in our hands, the combined tools and knowledge to reduce under-5 mortality rates in developing countries to levels similar to those in wealthier countries. Certain behaviors are essential to ending preventable child deaths and ensuring healthy development. These include healthy timing and spacing of pregnancies; giving quality antenatal care and nutrition; making sure newborns are sheltered, breastfed, kept warm, shielded from diseases like HIV and given proper nourishment; and protecting children with vaccines, bed nets and antibiotics, as well as supportive caregiving and healthy attachment.
Since the Call to Action, more than 150 government leaders have signed the pledge to end preventable child deaths. In addition, 185 civil society organizations have pledged their support and 220 faith-based organizations have committed to take action promoting the 10 best practice behavior changes to prevent maternal and child deaths.
Our goals are ambitious, but our sense of purpose is resolute. We are closer now than ever before to closing the gap between our aspirations for improving the health of the world’s children and the reality of its time. Let’s keep the momentum going.