Ending Preventable Child Deaths and Having More "Firsts"

April 28, 2012
by Crickett Nicovich, Senior Policy Associate

Every child goes through a series of “firsts.” Her first smile, his first step, and first birthdays to name a few… These are exciting milestones that are celebrated by the important people in the lives of a child.

Still there are 7.2 million children every year that miss out on so many of these “firsts” because they don’t reach their fifth birthdays. Most of these children live in developing countries and most of them die of completely treatable and preventable diseases. In fact, a majority of these child deaths (60 percent) occur in just 10 countries: India, Nigeria, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Pakistan, Ethiopia, Tanzania, Uganda, Bangladesh, Kenya and Niger.

As RESULTS works to fight this health inequity by pushing for increased resources for child survival and vaccines, we celebrated a few “firsts” of our own this week. RESULTS celebrated the first ever World Immunization week by participating in the launch of USAID’s “5th Birthday” Campaign, and the United Nations Foundation’s launch of their Shot@Life Campaign. Both campaigns focus on the US’s role in child survival and both are committed to giving more children the opportunities to have more “firsts.”

USAID’s 5th Birthday Campaign focuses on how countries can work together to end preventable child deaths. That’s right. They are talking about ENDING preventable child deaths. That means bringing developing country child deaths to the same level as developed countries.

The campaign is an effort to build momentum for USAID’s “Child Survival Call to Action” summit planned for June 2012 in Washington, DC. The Call to Action will bring together heads of states, development ministers, and health ministers from around the world with international civil society organizations and private sector companies to recommit international efforts to fight pneumonia, diarrhea, malaria, mother to child transmission of HIV/AIDS, and other leading child killers. At the launch USAID’s Campaign, Administrator Rajiv Shah held up a backpack full of health goodies to show the auditorium at the Kaiser Family Foundation some of the cost effective health interventions that can lead to the end of child deaths. He pulled out a package of plumpy nut and a sweet potato to talk about good nutrition, a dose of nevirapine that prevents the transmission of HIV from mother to child, zinc and oral rehydration therapy to treat cases of acute diarrhea which leads to severe dehydration, and basic and new vaccines like the GAVI funded pneumococcal and rotavirus vaccines that prevent and reduce pneumonia and diarrhea all together. All the life-saving interventions added up to just 30 dollars, but their benefits for saving children’s lives are priceless. RESULTS looks forward to this Call to Action and getting our activists involved in advocacy to encourage countries to live up to their commitments to end preventable child deaths. 

Thursday, RESULTS helped to kick-off the UN Foundation’s Shot@Life Campaign at the Atlanta Aquarium with moms and health advocates. Accessing polio and measles vaccines and the new pneumococcal and rotavirus vaccines for a child in a developing country can give them a Shot@ all the “firsts” and milestones we hope for every child to achieve.

The event featured Former First Lady Rosalynn Carter and the world-renowned photographer Anne Geddes speaking about the power of vaccines in protecting children. Mrs. Carter told the crowd, “Germs and disease don’t need passports.” She said that expanding access to vaccines globally also protects us in the United States. Anne Geddes added that it was our moral obligation to protect children and help them to reach their “firsts.” She said, “We are all responsible, for all the children, all the time.”

RESULTS’ Atlanta activists volunteered at the event and talked about the power of vaccines with children and their parents as they toured the aquarium. They all were able to email and tweet to their members of Congress on site to tell them why vaccines mattered for children in developing countries. RESULTS even created our own Shot@Life poster saying, “I want to give more kids a Shot@ becoming an activist!” That’s definitely a “first” we want everyone to have the opportunity to have!

PS: Check out some RESULTS staff on USAID’s 5th Birthday website. Can you guess who these cute kiddies are? Guess 2.

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