African leaders meeting in Addis Ababa to mark the 50th anniversary of the Organisation of African Unity/African Union should reaffirm their commitment to reduce child mortality across the continent, the world’s leading child’s rights organisation, Save the Children, said today.
While acknowledging great strides made in reducing the number of children who die of preventable causes in Africa, the aid agency said that much more must be done to meet the fourth Millennium Development Goal; the promise all countries made to reduce child mortality by two thirds by 2015.
“Between 1990-2000 and 2000-2011, Africa doubled the rate at which it reduced child mortality,” said Save the Children’s East Africa Regional Director and Head of Delegation to the AU Summit, Hussein Halane. “There are many individual stories of success, with countries such as Malawi and Rwanda, despite enormous odds, being on track to meet MDG4”
Save the Children is urging leaders congregating in Addis Ababa to step up efforts by investing in children’s health care and skilled health workers and for each government to ensure that children have the nutrition they need to survive and thrive.
“More needs to be done if the dreams and aspirations of the OAU/AU founders for a better Africa are to be truly realized.” Mr. Halane continued. “Despite counting for around 15% of the world’s population, Africa accounts for nearly half of the world’s child deaths. At the current rate of progress, Africa won’t meet Millennium Development Goal 4. We need to redouble our efforts to meet our collective promises, and ensure that children growing up over the next fifty years are given the opportunity to meet their full potential,”
Investing in children’s health is not only right; it makes perfect economic sense too, according to Save the Children. Malnutrition is an underlying cause of over a third of child deathsand can cost a country 2-3% of its national income each year. A recent study suggests that for every dollar spent on key interventions for reproductive, maternal, newborn and child health, about US$ 20 in benefits could be generated through producing healthy children who enjoy better cognitive development, achieve more at school and become healthy, productive adults. Healthy women are also more able to work and, on average, earn, invest and save more.
The agency also calls upon African Member states to honor their commitment to meet the Abuja target of allocating 15% of their national budget to health. Save the Children also urges African leaders to use the opportunity of the upcoming Nutrition for Growth Summit in London on June 8th – which is being attended by many African leaders – to rise to the challenge of tackling hunger and malnutrition which leaves almost two in five children in Africa stunted – a total of 60 million children.
“50 years ago, the OAU was formed to bring African leaders together in the fight against inequality and colonialism,” Mr. Halane said. “Today the fight continues - against the inequality which means that many of the children born today in Africa will not see their fifth birthday let alone their fiftieth.”
‘Accelerating progress in the last 1000 days will put us in the best position to start on the new Post-2015 development framework, which is also on the agenda at the AU summit. This is the best way to improve the lives of this generation of Africa’s children and the next’.
Ahead of a major Pan-African business conference taking place during the anniversary celebrations, the leading Child Rights agency also underlines that children are affected directly and indirectly by activities of the private sector. Governments have an obligation to create conditions where public private partnerships are encouraged to meet its economic and development agenda to have significant impact on the future of the African child.