Child Survival Call to Action, conference goal

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High-level conference  targets end of all preventable child deaths by 2035

sierra leone-jembe-village

Jembe village in Sierra Leone. Copyright: GAVI/2011/Doune Porter

Washington, D.C., 14 June 2012 – A high-level conference on child survival will kick off Thursday with a goal of ending all preventable child deaths around the world in a generation.

Called A Promise to Keep: Child Survival Call to Action, the meeting will include the signing of a pledge by governments, civil society organizations, and faith-based groups to do their best to eliminate these preventable deaths by 2035.

GAVI’s participation

The meeting is being convened by the governments of United States, India, and Ethiopia, and organized in close collaboration with UNICEF. The GAVI Alliance is an active participant in the two-day meeting, and CEO Seth Berkley will deliver remarks on Friday.

The meeting also will feature presentations by Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Ethiopia’s Health Minister; Anuradha Gupta, Permanent Secretary of India’s Minister of Health and Family Welfare; Rajiv Shah, Administrator, U.S. Agency for International Development; and actor Ben Affleck, who is founder of the Eastern Congo Initiative.

Identifying ways to reduce deaths

Anthony Lake, UNICEF’s Executive Director, told reporters on Wednesday that the purpose of the meeting was to discuss ways to accelerate the decline for child mortality. He noted that great progress has been already made with the numbers of preventable child deaths now at 7.6 million, down from 12 million in 1990.

We still are not reaching millions of the poorest and disadvantaged population

Anthony Lake, UNICEF’s Executive Director

Eighty percent of today’s deaths occur in 24 countries. Fully half of the deaths are from five countries: India, Ethiopia, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Pakistan, and Nigeria.

Problems exist worldwide

“We still are not reaching millions of the poorest and disadvantaged population, and this is true around the world and true in this city in fact,” he said, referring to Washington, D.C.

Gupta said India’s challenge remains great, but it also has made strong progress in the last decade. She said that was due in part to the widespread delivery of vaccines and the decision to allow states greater flexibility in how each spent health care funding. She also noted that India was contributing to the global fight because of the large number of generic drug manufacturers “developing vaccines and drugs … to make sure there is expanded access to vaccines and drugs at a highly affordable cost around the world.”

Success of primary health care

Minister Tedros of Ethiopia noted that Ethiopia has reduced child mortality in half in the last decade, to 88 deaths per 1,000 live births, down from 160 deaths. 

He said progress was due to strong political commitment among Ethiopia’s leadership, building a health system that emphasizes primary care, and donor’s support for the country’s priorities. He said in the last five years, the country has trained 38,000 health extension workers.

“From the start, we were convinced that the way forward was primary health care,” Tedros said. “This cadre of new health professionals has mobilized communities, so the communities can really own the process.”

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