The charity Save the Children USA is starting a campaign to dramatically decrease the number of children who die before the age of five. VOA's Peter Heinlein in Addis Ababa reports the campaign will focus on seven countries, four in Africa and three in South Asia.
The program is called Survive to Five.
The idea behind it is simple. Despite great strides in preventing child mortality in the 1990s, 10 million children under five die every year. Every fifth death in the world is a child under five. Something must be done.
Facing statistics like these, the staff of Save the Children USA set about to design a counter strategy. It involves increasing access to community health care workers; persuading governments, both donors and developing nations, to give higher priority to spending on maternal and child health; and mobilizing citizens to speak up on behalf of children.
Save the Children USA President Charlie MacCormack told an Addis Ababa news conference the organization came up with a two-pronged approach. One is to focus efforts on seven countries where infant mortality is the highest. The second is to persuade a dozen or so wealthy countries to double, triple, or in some cases quadruple their financial commitments for infant and child health care.
"The key on the donor side is the G-8 plus Scandinavians who need to increase by $7 bilion that the rich countries are helping," said MacCormack. "Then we need to join with people and governments of Bangladesh, India, Pakistan, Sudan, Ethiopia, Nigeria and Democratic Republic of Congo where almost two-thirds of under-five mortality is located."
MacCoormack says the solution is not rocket science; all the tools needed to save the lives of millions of infants and young children each year are already in place.
"We are not inventing new science, new technologies, we do not need new vaccines," he said. "Everything we need to achieve this is there and affordable. And the governments of Bangladesh and India and Pakistan and Ethiopia and Nigeria have to take the lead, but the donors have to fill in the gaps."
As for raising public awareness, acclaimed actress and two-time Academy Award winner Jessica Lange came to Addis Ababa for the launch of the Survive to Five campaign. Lange says her interest in the campaign is as a mother of three children.
"What I would wish is for every mother and every father to experience the joy of watching your children grow up," said Jessica Lange. "I know from the work that Save the Children is doing is that this is not a reality for millions of parents around the globe. Today alone, 1,000 children under five will die here in Ethiopia. They will die of preventable causes, and no mother or father regardless of where they live or where the child is born should have to bear the grief of losing a child from a death that could have been prevented."
Save the Children USA estimates that of the 10 million children under five who die each year, 376,000 are in Ethiopia. Of those, 120,000 die at birth.
The United States, through its Agency for International Development, is the largest bilateral aid donor to most of the countries with the highest child mortality rates.
Overall, USAID will contribute more than $500 million in aid to Ethiopia this year.