A child hangs in a scale as relief workers determine his level of malnutrition at a World Vision feeding center June 15, 1998 in Thiet, Sudan.
We are on the front lines of one of the quietest—but most compelling—revolutions in human history. It is not marked by upheaval, bloodshed, frantic news coverage or impassioned debate. In the last 50 years, child mortality has dropped by an astonishing 70 percent globally. This revolution of helping children reach their fifth birthday and beyond has brought about happier parents, smaller, more prosperous households, and children with much brighter futures.
America’s legacy here is proud one: With strong bipartisan support, the U.S. government’s support of global health has saved many millions of lives. As current and former assistant administrators of global health at the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) during Republican and Democratic presidential administrations, we know the critical importance of accelerating support for child and maternal health programs.
Yet, tragically, more than 7 million children still die each year of largely preventable causes.
For most of history, families were often powerless to ensure the survival of their children. We now understand what causes children to die needlessly, and we know how to save them—in relatively simple and inexpensive ways. It starts with ensuring girls do not get married too young, and when they do get married, that they appropriately space their children. While mothers are pregnant, we help them get proper nutrition to ensure their babies will be born healthy and strong, and we protect their unborn children from HIV and malaria. Once the baby is born, we provide an extremely effective cadre of vaccines that provide immunity from a host of deadly diseases–reaching more than 100 million children a year.
The numbers of needless childhood deaths have been dropping steadily for decades, but millions still die. The moment to do more has arrived. It is time to create the next wave of the child survival revolution. With greater political commitment, we can parlay progress into a shared vision to end all preventable child deaths—stopping one of the greatest moral outrages of our time.
Convened by the governments of the United States, India, and Ethiopia, and organized in close collaboration with UNICEF – a Child Survival: Call to Action on June 14 and 15 will bring together over 700 public and private constituencies to kick off a long-term, focused effort to save children’s lives. We know that countries can’t do it alone. We will need the full force of civil society, government, and the private sector to ensure the survival of the world’s most vulnerable children.
Crucially, we need faith communities in the both developed and developing countries to help. They are essential because of their extensive networks, their credibility and leadership within communities, and their capacity to mobilize significant numbers of volunteers. Put simply, religion has a staying power that we need to get the job done.
For example, as a Christian and child-focused humanitarian organization, World Vision is training midwives in Afghanistan, protecting children from polio in India, Ethiopia and Angola, mobilizing thousands of community health volunteers across Africa, and much more. The organization’s Child Health Now campaign brings together hard-hit communities, individual supporters and other groups in a global movement to ensure children can grow up healthy in their communities, with access to basic health services, nutrition, and disease prevention.
Through our country’s investments in maternal and child health, we are giving the next generation of children around the world an opportunity to live, grow, and thrive. As people of faith and goodwill know, it is the right thing to do.
Dr. Ariel Pablos-Mendez is the Assistant Administrator for Global Health at the United States Agency for International Development
Dr. Kent R. Hill is Senior Vice President for International Programs at World Vision, the Christian humanitarian organization.
For more about the effort to end of preventable child deaths, visit www.apromiserenewed.org