Child Survival Call to Action, 14-15 June 2012

Dr. BhuttaOn June 14th and 15th, 2012, Countdown to 2015 was a featured presenter at the Child Survival Call to Action, a high-level forum hosted by the governments of the United States, India, and Ethiopia, in collaboration with UNICEF. More than 7 million children will die in 2012, most of them from preventable causes, before reaching their 5th birthday. The global community has made great progress in reducing child mortality: over the last 50 years, child mortality has been reduced by 70%, largely due to high-impact tools and interventions, notably new vaccines and more community health workers. But the poorest and most disadvantaged children and their families continue to miss out on lifesaving, affordable interventions. The Call to Action, held in Washington, D.C., brought together 700 leaders and global experts to launch a sustained effort dedicated to one ambitious, yet simple, goal — to end preventable child deaths, framing the achievement of that goal in the context of broader efforts to strengthen health systems, address inequities, and promote social and economic progress.  The forum’s theme was “Committing to Child Survival: A Promise Renewed.”

A significant feature of the Call to Action was the launch of Countdown’s newest report, Building a Future for Women and Children: The 2012 Report, which was distributed to all who attended the forum.

On the meeting’s first day, Countdown co-chair Dr. Zulfiqar Bhutta introduced Countdown to a high-level plenary audience that included government ministers and senior officials from Ethiopia, India, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Mozambique, the United Kingdom, Nigeria, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Spain, and the United States, as well as the leaders of the World Health Organization and UNICEF. His remarks included the following highlights:

“The aims of Countdown are specific. Our objectives are to collate, synthesize and present the most recent and up-to-date information on progress for maternal, newborn and child survival, and key determinants of progress, across the Countdown countries. Countdown also suggests actions based on the best evidence available …

The objective is accountability, to hold governments, donors, civil society and other partners accountable wherever and whenever progress is lagging… We spend a fair amount of time on advocacy, on making sure that our voice is heard, and heard in the right quarters, and also on responding to the calls from increasing number of partners and agencies focused on maternal, newborn and child survival…

Today, in this very city, if a child were to present to this very university’s hospital and die of dehydration and diarrhea, there would be an inquisition. It would be headline news. And yet, as we speak, there are close to 80,000 deaths that take place due to diarrhea in my country alone.

This is a challenge that we all face as partners: how can we monitor and hold people accountable? Our workplan, over the next decade, is to change our focus from a global-level overview to much more granular and specific country-level information… and increasingly not just country-level data but granularity of information that looks at subnational disparities.

We also need to bring together not only indicators focused on each specific issue, but also the determinants, which are so critical. As we know, 40% of all child deaths are in the newborn period. We can do nothing for those deaths without addressing the issue of maternal deaths. And we can do nothing for maternal deaths without addressing the issue of reproductive health and the health and well-being of young adolescent girls. And as [UNICEF Executive Director] Tony Lake said, education, empowerment, and giving specific rights to girls and young women in many parts of the world is critically needed…”

A more detailed presentation was made on the second day of the Child Survival Call to Action, as part of an agenda that focused on building out a “Global Roadmap” that captures the specific goals, state of knowledge, and progress of child survival. Video of Countdown’s presentation, by Dr. Tessa Wardlaw of UNICEF and Dr. James Tibenderana of Malaria Consortium—Uganda, and their slide presentation can be accessed below:

pdfThe Countdown Report 2012: Data, Methods, Country Profiles and Findings