17 January 2013

Africa: USAID Partners With African Countries to Boost Child Survival

Washington — Representatives from African health ministries, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), and child health experts are gathering in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, January 16-18 to share strategies to increase child survival rates.

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 road map to end preventable deaths of children under the age of 5.

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, more than 165 countries have since pledged to scale up efforts to end preventable child deaths.

"Your leadership and dedicated focus is an essential part of this unified effort," USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah told conference participants. "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."

Setting the stage for the meeting, Ethiopian 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."

Africa shares a significant global burden of newborn, child and maternal deaths. Of the 3.5 million such deaths per year on the continent, 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, USAID said in a January 16 press release.

UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake said, "In the past two decades, we've seen huge reductions in under-5 mortality. But we must do better. In sub-Saharan Africa alone, over 9,000 children under 5 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."

More information is available on the UNICEF website A Promise Renewed.

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