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A Call to Action and 5th Birthdays by Stephan Bauman

7.6 million Children will die this year by preventable diseases before they reach the age of 5. One….two…three…four. Four seconds. One more child is dead.

Bono calls this stupid poverty. Why? Because we know how to fix it. It simply should not happen. In 1990 the number of child deaths was 14.6 million. Twenty years later, the number of deaths has been nearly cut in half. How? Exclusive breast feeding for the first six months of life; sleeping under insecticide treated mosquito nets; improved sanitation and hand-washing practices; drinking recommended liquids to prevent dehydration from diarrhea, and timely access to essential medicines for malaria and pneumonia.

People around the world are joining together to reduce the incomprehensible number of 7.6 million. This week, on June 14-15th, the governments of the United States, Ethiopia, and India will convene in collaboration with UNICEF at the Child Survival Call to Action in Washington, D.C. Call to Action will bring together 700 prominent leaders from government, the private sector, and civil society to kick off a long-term, sustainable effort to end the preventable deaths of newborns, children, and mothers. Thousands of leaders have already committed to helping every child celebrate their 5th birthday through mobilization of political leadership to end preventable child deaths; achieving consensus on a global roadmap, which features innovative and proven strategies to accelerate reductions in child mortality; and driving sustained collective action and mutual accountability.

Two millennia ago, when children were under similar threats of disease and death, Jesus of Nazareth said, “Whatever you do for the least of these, you do for me.” Hunger, thirst, disease, and death. Jesus specialized in overcoming these then, and calls us to do the same now. God wants children to thrive. It is his will, and it’s his plan to get it done through you and me.

Today, in Malawi, Burundi, Rwanda, Mozambique, Cambodia, Indonesia and around the world, World Relief is building capacity in mothers—true heroes in overcoming preventable child deaths—to lead their communities towards change Mothers are empowered to apply basic lessons in their own families and train their neighbors as well. Knowledge means the difference between life and death. In Mozambique, for example, mothers have seen profound impact. As documented in The Royal Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene (2007), infant and child mortality rates declined 49% and 42%, respectively, during World Relief’s Child Survival Project in Gaza province. A subsequent study showed these results were sustained over time, and similar impact is being realized in projects throughout Africa and Asia as a result of the “Care Group” model developed by World Relief.

Still, more needs to be done. UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake says, “We have the tools; we have the knowledge, and we must match them with our unshakeable commitment to save millions of lives.” Change is possible. Become an advocate for one of the most important issues of our day.

  • Share your commitment to this movement through Facebook, Twitter, and E-mail.
  • Go to 5th Birthday and check out the faces that have survived. Post a picture of your own 5th birthday.
  • Sign the pledge to take action to end preventable child deaths.
  • Write a letter to your local paper
  • Collaborate with any of the 50 organizations involved in this initiative
  • Visit A Promise Renewed for more information on the initiatives to deliver on the Millennium Development Goals by 2015, and World Relief for more on specific child survival initiatives.

Let’s envision a day when every child celebrates their 5th birthday.