Developed as a way to progress the quality of life in the world’s poorest and most underdeveloped countries, the United Nations’ Millennium Development Goals were established and set in motion in 2000, to be met by the year 2015. The main purpose of the goals, which focus attention on a number of important aspects (including but not limited to ending world poverty and hunger, combatting HIV/AIDS, maintaining environmental sustainability, encouraging global partnership, and providing child health care), is to ensure that every person on the planet has an equal right to freedom, equality, basic needs, and dignity.
While targeting child health around the world, the UN has raised the stakes and plans to reduce the mortality rate of children aged five years and younger by at least two-thirds between the years 1990 and 2015. Despite ongoing efforts this goal is still a distance away; but groups like the United States’ Agency for International Development (USAID), and its administrator Raj Shah, are hopeful that it is one that can be reached.
No stranger to the issue, children’s advocacy group Save the Children headed a study (sponsored by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation) that would eventually find significant information about the state of global health care. According to the study, newborn babies—those within the first month of life—accounted for an astonishing 40% of preventable child deaths throughout the world each and every year. What is more, only a small amount of international aid is geared towards newborn and maternal care.
While the news is certainly concerning, it provides a clear plan of action for alleviating this crisis. “We must make sure to focus global efforts on when our kids are dying,” explained the President and CEO of Save the Children, Carolyn Miles. “Shockingly, this is right at the start of their lives when they are newborn babies.”
In 2010 alone, approximately 7.6 million children under the age of five died around the world—of these, 3.1 million were newborns. While the total number is down from 1990 (12.4 million), most of these deaths can be attributed to preventable causes like pneumonia, diarrhea, and other newborn complications. And while the treatment can often times be simple enough, the means and know-how are largely less available.
The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), in a similar report, found that two of the strongest causes of infantile deaths can be traced to pneumonia and diarrhea (29% of children’s deaths, five years and younger). It is here where the international agency, as well as Save the Children, hope to focus future efforts. “Deaths due to these diseases are largely preventable through optimal breastfeeding practices and adequate nutrition, vaccinations, hand washing with soap, safe drinking water and basic sanitation, among other measures,” explained UNICEF in its report.
With the recent “Child Survival: Call to Action” meeting in Washington (June 15-16)—hosted by India, Ethiopia, and the Obama Administration—representatives from around the world convened in order to better prepare for the challenges ahead of them. But at least now crosshairs can be focused more adequately. Now is the time to take action on a global scale and eradicate preventable causes of infant deaths. To urge the international authority on heath, the World Health Organization (WHO), to improve global newborn and maternal health care, sign the petition here.
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