US Accelerates Efforts to Curb Child Mortality

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With more than 7 million children expected to die from preventable causes before they reach their fifth birthday, the United States today revealed strategies on how to bend the curb of child mortality around the world.

On her remarks at the Child Survival Forum, US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said still millions of children will never get survive before their first five years.

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Three children in Akko draw together and smile for the photographer’s camera.

UN Photo/John Isaac

She says that one cannot be the future the world wants for all children around the world.

“And so we are all here today with one vision: To make sure every child everywhere lives to see his or her fifth birthday, to eliminate preventable child death in a generation.” -Ms. Clinton

She cites that in 2011, she laid out a vision of an AIDS-free generation.

Well, ending preventable child deaths is just as ambitious.”-Ms. Clinton

But, Ms. Clinton believes in setting goals and she believes the world has good reasons for optimism.

According to Ms. Clinton, in just the past 50 years, child mortality has plummeted by 70 percent.

However, in two decades the world has cut the number of children who die each year by more than 4 million.

“This is truly one of history’s great development stories. And yet, progress is not the same thing as success.” -Ms. Clinton

However, she highlighted that the raw numbers are mindboggling.

She adds that the gap between rich and poor is just as shocking.

A child born in sub-Saharan Africa is seven times more likely to die before the age of five than one born here in the United States, she noted.

She stresses that child mortality rates are coming down, but too slowly.

“We can’t wait a hundred years for a child from Pakistan or Nigeria to have the same chance at life as a child in the United States or Europe.” -Ms. Clinton

She cites that in many developing countries, the population looks like a pyramid with a small number of working age adults supporting far more children and young people.

In the developing world, 40 percent of the people are under the age of 20, she noted.

She explains the numbers limit the opportunities for economic growth and puts an enormous strain on government to provide schools, health care, and other necessary services.

However, Ms. Clinton emphasizes that the world can change the shape of this pyramid if all drive down child mortality, along with investing in girls’ education and improving access to voluntary family planning.

“It sounds, perhaps, like a paradox, but when fewer children die, people choose to have smaller families, knowing with greater confidence that their children will survive to adulthood.” -Ms. Clinton

She highlighted that’s why she is so excited about the goal of this conference: to accelerate our progress; to make sure that one day all children, wherever they’re born, have the same chance to survive; and to see this day arrive not in a hundred years, but within my lifetime.

“So how do we speed up our progress? How do we bend the curve and drive down the number of child deaths even faster?” -Ms. Clinton

She says it begins by changing the way the world approaches the problem.

“We’ve set targets for reduction, but even if we achieve Millennium Development Goal 4, millions of children will still die every year from preventable causes.” -Ms. Clinton

To accelerate progress, she stresses there is a need to agree on a new way forward.

“That’s why we’re all here a'”representatives from 80 countries. That’s the goal of the new global roadmap for reducing child mortality that you will be discussing over the next two days.” -Ms. Clinton

She announces that Secretary of Health and Human Services Sebelius will commit the United States to this new plan.

She notes this roadmap identifies five ways the world can shift its work to speed up progress and save far more lives.

“First, we’ll focus our efforts in the countries where child mortality rates are the highest.” -Ms. Clinton

She notes that eighty percent of children’s deaths occur in 24 countries, but those countries don’t receive nearly 80 percent of global support or funding.

She says the US wants to work with those governments that are willing to lead the effort within their own borders.

The Forum was participated by leaders from India, Pakistan, Ethiopia, Nigeria, and the Democratic Republic of Congo, the five countries that together suffer half of all childhood deaths before the age of five.

“Yet, even as we focus on the hardest hit countries, we will also identify the specific populations where children are most vulnerable. That’s the second shift.” -Ms. Clinton

She says wherever one find inequality holding people back, one is likely to find a higher child mortality rate.

It may be in a slum where vaccinations are hard to come by or in a rural area where the water is deadly to drink, Ms. Clinton noted.

No matter the solution, she says the world has to find the communities where children are suffering most and tailor our responses to their specific needs.

“Third, we will prioritize fighting the illnesses and conditions that are claiming the most lives: pneumonia, diarrhea, neonatal complications.” -Ms. Clinton

She notes countries should scale up the most effective solutions and support innovative research into new lifesaving, cost-effective measures.

So the fourth shift in the strategy is to look at the broader social and economic factors that are closely linked to high child mortality, Ms. Clinton stated.

“For example, are girls being educated? Are women being empowered? Do women have access to family planning? Can they make decisions about when to take their children to the clinic?” -Ms. Clinton

Finally, she says countries will make mutual accountability and transparency a centerpiece of our effort

She says by coming together to support this agenda, countries can all work to give accountability some teeth.

Ethiopia’s leadership is a great case in point, she added.

“For our part, the United States is committed to making these five shifts part of our broader effort to change the way we do business in development.” -Ms Clinton

The United States is the largest funder of children’s health, including maternal health, family planning, nutrition, and other areas.

In 2011, PEPFAR reached 660,000 HIV-positive pregnant women, enabling 200,000 babies to be born HIV-free.

She reports that PEPFAR has joined UNAIDS in leading a partnership to virtually end mother-to-child transmission by 2015.

“We will maintain that kind of financial, technical, and diplomatic commitment, even as we do a better job coordinating our programs and aligning our resources to support country-led plans.” -Ms. Clinton

She stresses that the US government is also supporting several new initiatives that will help put this new roadmap to the test.

Along with the Norwegian Government, Merck Pharmaceuticals, Every Mother Counts, and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, the United States recently helped launch Saving Mothers, Giving Life, a public-private partnership that will work to protect mothers and newborns during labor and delivery.

Ms. Clinton also reports that US also partnered with seven organizations to launch Survive and Thrive, which will connect healthcare professionals in the United States with their counterparts in low and middle-income countries so they can share insights and strengthen their skills in caring for mothers, newborns, and young children.

“And finally, we are launching the Women’s Health Innovation program, a partnership with the What to Expect Foundation and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation that will provide expecting mothers with pregnancy information, education, and social support.” -Ms. Clinton

At the forum, Ms. Clinton highlighted that she is very eager to see what other commitments will be made today and tomorrow.

She stresses that if the world will meet the goal the countries are committing to at the Forum, then the world will have added another story to the short list of the greatest things people have ever done for one another.

Earlier this month, recognizing that improving women’s health creates dividends for entire societies, the United States of America has underscored that improving maternal health is one of its priority for the United States.

On her remarks for “A World in Transition: Charting a New Path in Global Health” in Norway, US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said when China, Sri Lanka, and Malaysia upgraded and expanded their health systems, their maternal mortality rates dropped dramatically.

To improve the maternal health of women around the world, the development agency USAID is supporting more skilled midwives and cell phone technology to spread health information.

The US government is involved in the International Alliance for Reproductive, Maternal, and Newborn Health, a five-year effort to improve donor coordination.

United States ispartnering with Norway and others to support innovative interventions that improve outcomes for pregnant women and newborns.

The United States is integrating services throughout our health programs so women and their families have access to the range of care they need.

The US is linking its health programs to others that address the legal, social and cultural barriers that inhibit women’s access to care, such as gender-based violence, lack of education, and the low social status of women and girls.

The US government is also trying to help put in place the essential pieces of strong health systems.

With its commitment to empower women and girls around the world, the United States of America has underlined that USAID-led Global Health Initiative is investing in efforts to reduce maternal and child mortality globally.

US government is prioritizing in the realm of women’s health and its contribution to civilian security: maternal health, sexual and reproductive health, and gender based violence.

The GHI aims to equalize gender imbalances related to health, to promote the empowerment of women and girls, and to improve overall health outcomes for women, their families, and their communities.

The GHI is investing in efforts to reduce maternal and child mortality, secure access to family planning and prevent the spread of HIV, among other goals – all of which aim to address and respond to the unique health needs of women and girls, Ms. Otero added.

GHI goal is for women and children to have access to an integrated package of essential health services – from sexual and reproductive health care and HIV/AIDS services, to skilled attendants at childbirth, to immunization services and basic nutrition.

The initiative seeks to increase the participation of women and girls in health care decision-making, especially as it pertains to reproductive health and family planning, Ms. Otero noted

She reports that more than two billion women are under the age of 24 and entering their childbearing years.

However, 215 million women around the world who want to prevent pregnancy lack access to contraception and family planning.

In addition, nearly half the women in the developing world deliver babies without a nurse, a midwife, or a doctor.

In addition, more than 350,000 women die each year due to complications related to pregnancy and child birth – the majority of those deaths are preventable.

Ninety-nine percent of these deaths occur among the poorest populations of the developing world.

Despite the daunting numbers challenges, the GHI has made gains and are seeing hope for progress.

The President and Secretary Clinton have elevated the role and rights of women to unprecedented heights in US foreign policy and programming from diplomacy to development to defense.

The United States believes that a society which lifts up women is more likely to have strong economic growth and a stable political system.

And in places where women’s rights are denied, poverty and political oppression often precede and follow, Ms. Otero noted.

The U.S. government continues to lay the groundwork for efforts under the U.S. Global Health Initiative (GHI), announcing the first round of “GHI Plus” countries, as well as the program’s governance structure.

GHI is a six-year, $63 billion initiative to help partner countries improve measurable health outcomes by strengthening health systems and building upon proven results.

GHI activities are being implemented in the more than 80 countries where U.S. government global health dollars are already at work.

Mina Fabulous follows the news, especially what is going on in the US State Department. Mina turns State Department waffle into plain English. Mina Fabulous is the pen name of Carmen Avalino, the NewsBlaze production editor. When she isn’t preparing stories for NewsBlaze writers, she writes stories, but to separate her editing and writing identities, she uses the name given by her family and friends.