Christian humanitarian agency World Vision has launched a global five-year campaign to reduce the number of child and infant deaths, which currently stands around 8.8 million each year.
More specifically, World Vision will be working through its Child Health Now campaign to ensure that government leaders in 100 countries deliver on their commitments to reduce child mortality by two-thirds by 2015, claiming that a major factor in the number of preventable child deaths is not poverty, as many might believe, but the failure of governments to spend more on health care.
"It is politics, not poverty that is killing these children," commented World Vision International President and CEO Kevin Jenkins. "The politicians have made many promises, but the truth is that saving mothers and children from death is simply not a priority."
In a new report released concurrently with the new campaign's launch, World Vision noted that more than 24,000 infants in developing countries die daily from preventable diseases, such as diarrhea, pneumonia, childbirth complications and malaria.
And while there are a number of proven, cost-effective interventions that could save children's lives, life-saving solutions such as hand washing with soap, adequate nutrition and bed nets are a priority for too few leaders.
"Our experience has demonstrated that effective health care – through simple, preventive, cost-effective measures – is a leading factor in community development. Yet most health spending does not go to prevent the biggest child killers, which are diarrhea and pneumonia, or on basic essentials like clean, safe water, sanitation and nutritious food," noted Jenkins.
Furthermore, many people still don't know what proper health care looks like and have not been encouraged, added Elizabeth Walumbe, who manages World Vision's "Better Health for Afghan Mothers and Children" project in Afghanistan
"What they need is information, education, communication," she stated.
Bed nets, oral re-hydration, exclusive breastfeeding, skilled attendants, immunization and vitamin and micronutrient supplements to boost immunity and growth are just a few of the proven, cost-effective interventions that could save children's lives, noted the Child Health Now report.
Prevention is a key focus of the Child Health Now campaign and also a big reason why several low income countries have made substantial cuts in child deaths and improvements in the health of children.
Through a mix of high-level political commitment and focused policies, progress can be achieved, underlined the Child Health Now report, which was released last week.
As part of its Child Health Now campaign, World Vision is rallying people to sign a petition on childhealthnow.org to call on all governments to make child and maternal health their number one priority.
"By putting the health of children and mothers first you can help end the preventable deaths of more than 16,000 children every day," the petition to national leaders states.
Over the next five years, World Vision also expects to make a significant financial commitment of US$1.5 billion to health in its own programs in hopes that through its efforts and those of government leaders, the lives of at least six million children will be saved each year.
So far, World Vision has identified 30 high priority countries where child deaths are most prevalent, such as Afghanistan and Pakistan, where one in four children and nine in 100 children, respectively, die before reaching the age of five.
The governments of those and other countries will be pressed to make child, newborn and maternal health a priority by creating national plans to achieve U.N. Millennium Development Goal (MDG) No. 4, providing a full and timely donor response to support national plans, ensuring access and addressing neglected diseases, and developing and implementing a comprehensive monitoring and accountability system for activities designed to achieve MDG No. 4.
MDG No. 4 – one of eight international development goals adopted during a landmark gathering of world leaders in 2000 – committed governments to reduce the number of under-five child deaths by two-thirds.
According to World Vision, governments are only 32 percent of the way to achieving MDG No. 4 though only five years remain before the deadline.
"It's a 'silent' emergency," commented Jenkins.
"And it is, I believe, the greatest child rights violation of our time," he added.
World Vision's report, "Child Health Now - Together We Can End Preventable Deaths," as well as its petition are available on its campaign website, childhealthnow.org.
Also on the website are resources, cases studies, and contact information for World Vision regional representatives.
The campaign's official launch date was Nov. 16.