16 January 2013

Africa: Leaders Invest in Africa's Future Through Renewed Focus On Child Survival

Addis Ababa/Washington D.C. — Today, the Government of Ethiopia convened a meeting of African Ministers of Health and global experts aimed at accelerating reductions in preventable child deaths through sharper national plans and improved monitoring and evaluation.

The African Leadership for Child Survival - A Promise Renewed conference, follows last year's Child Survival Call to Action, which was co-convened by the Governments of Ethiopia, India and the United States with UNICEF and launched a global roadmap to end preventable deaths of children under five.

The Call to Action challenged countries to lower their national rates of child mortality to 20 or fewer deaths per 1,000 live births by 2035. Under the banner of Committing to Child Survival: A Promise Renewed over 165 countries have since pledged to scale up efforts to end preventable child deaths.

The African continent shares a significant global burden of newborn, child and maternal deaths. Of the 3.5 million such deaths per year in Africa, more than 1 million are newborns. But some African countries such as Libya, Mauritius and Tunisia have already reduced their under-5 mortality rates to below 20 per 1,000 live births.

Setting the stage for the meeting, Ethiopia's Minister of Health Kesetebirhan Admasu said: "We are at a crucial juncture in our final sprint towards the 2015 Millennium Development Goals and the 2035 vision of ending preventable child deaths. Much will depend on country-level leadership and action on child survival. I strongly believe we can only accelerate our progress if we renew our commitments and live up to providing increased, sustained and more harmonized leadership and support."

USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah provided a clear message to participants: "Your leadership and dedicated focus is an essential part of this unified effort. It is wonderful to see so many countries gathered together to focus on how to sharpen national plans and develop scorecards to strengthen monitoring and evaluation. The work you are doing will continue when you return to your capital cities--and USAID stands ready to support you."

UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake said in another message: "In the past two decades, we've seen huge reductions in under-five mortality. But we must do better. In Sub-Saharan Africa alone, over 9,000 children under five die daily, mainly from causes we can prevent. If we can prevent children dying, we must. And with all of your skills and political leadership, we will."

Leaders will seek to give the global movement, Committing to Child Survival: A Promise Renewed, greater momentum and hope in Africa. Together with non-governmental organizations, the private sector and faith groups, countries are united around a simple premise: that every child everywhere deserves to reach their full potential.

The three-day meeting in Addis Ababa is ahead of the African Union summit 21 to 28 January.

Committing to Child Survival: A Promise Renewed is the response and action that emerged from the global Call to Action for Child Survival forum in Washington D.C in June 2012. Since then more than 165 governments and hundreds of civil society organization, private sector companies and faith based leader have pledged to redouble efforts to combat child survival and improve maternal health (MDGs 4 and 5) and to focus greater effort on reaching the most disadvantaged and hardest to reach children in every country. A Promise Renewed is one of the central pillars supporting the implementation of the United Nations Secretary-General's 2010 global strategy to improve women's and children's health called Every Women Every Child.

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