USAID’s Shah calls for zero preventable deaths

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Head of US development agency launches social media campaign highlighting children who die from vaccine preventable illnesses before their fifth birthday

5th Birthday Campaign

Find a photo from your fifth birthday, or a photo of you or your kids at age five, and share it via The “Every Child Deserves a 5th Birthday” web site and other social media outlets.

Washington, 24 April 2012 - Launching the “Every Child Deserves a Fifth Birthday” social media campaign in Washington on Monday, the head of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) gave a sneak peek of his vision for a world with zero child deaths from preventable diseases.

Rajiv Shah, USAID’s Administrator, said that plans with specific goals are needed urgently in places with the highest numbers of child deaths.

Roadmap of action

Five countries – India, China, Nigeria, Pakistan, and Democratic Republic of Congo – account for 50 percent of the preventable deaths. Roughly 7.6 million children die every year from preventable illnesses.

“In each community, we need a crystal clear roadmap of action,” said Shah, speaking at the Kaiser Family Foundation event. “The roadmaps will require country ownership, and the participation of other groups.”

Fifth Birthday campaign

Policymakers and child-health advocates had gathered at the Kaiser Family Foundation to see Shah officially launch the “Every Child Deserves a Fifth Birthday” campaign, which is encouraging people to post pictures of themselves when they were five years old.

For the first time in history, we really do have the tools and know how to … end these deaths from preventable diseases.

Rajiv Shah, USAID’s Administrator

Shah’s image flashed on Kaiser’s big screen, as did that of his daughter, Amna, aged three. “Next year, in August, she will turn five, and she will have a birthday party, with cake and balloons and presents,” said Shah.

“Like many children who turn five, she will go to kindergarten and one of the presents we’ll give her will be a backpack… But for over seven million children, they will die before than reach their fifth birthday, and won’t attend kindergarten and won’t get backpacks.”

That shouldn’t happen, he said: “What gives me pause, is that for the first time in history, we really do have the tools and know how to change this … and end these deaths from preventable diseases.”

Child Survival: Call to Action

The campaign will culminate in a gathering of global experts in Washington in June called Child Survival: Call to Action. The meeting will be co-convened by United States, India, UNICEF and Ethiopia.

A Demographic and Health Survey released two weeks ago found that Ethiopia had reduced child mortality by 23 percent in the last four years.

“Ethiopia’s success remains too unique,” Shah said. “To say it simply, we just aren’t being as strategic against the overall goal as we could be.”

The Washington event came amid a flurry of activity around the world on child survival efforts, much of it linked to World Immunization Week.

GAVI is playing key roles in Ghana’s joint launch of pneumococcal and rotavirus vaccines, and Haiti’s and Nigeria’s introduction of a pentavalent vaccine. In addition, the UN Foundation will launch its shot@life campaign.

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