WE ARE CLOSER THAN EVER TO MAKING THAT WORLD A REALITY.
WHAT DOES IT TAKE TO SAVE A LIFE?
The first days and weeks of a child’s life are the most dangerous. Birth itself is dangerous, and newborns are also at higher risk for infections. Every year, approximately 1 million children die on their very first day of life, almost 2 million die within the first two weeks. We can prevent newborn deaths and give every child a healthy start at life by ensuring access to skilled care and a handful of vital interventions around the time of birth, as well as improved care for small and sick newborns.
Vaccines save millions of children around the world and are one of the greatest contributors to the decline in child mortality. Fewer children are dying from diseases like measles, pneumonia, and diarrhea. Still, millions of children every year do not receive the vaccines they need. We must work to close the immunization gap and strengthen immunization systems so vaccines can reach children no matter where they live. At the same time, continued research is needed to develop vaccines against leading killers of children like malaria and HIV.
Despite incredible progress, infectious diseases like pneumonia, diarrhea, and malaria still cause the majority of deaths of children under five. Children with co-existing health problems, such as those who are malnourished, HIV positive, or underweight, are especially at risk. Increasing access to care and ensuring caregivers are educated about the symptoms of disease is essential to reducing these deaths.
Malnutrition is an underlying cause of many deaths of mothers and children. This includes not getting enough food and not getting necessary vitamins and minerals, which are particularly important during the thousand days from conception to age 2. It leaves mothers and their children more vulnerable to diseases, delays development, and keeps children from reaching their full potential.
Pregnancy and childbirth should be a joyous occasion, yet for many it is instead a dangerous time. More than 300,000 women die every year from complications during pregnancy and childbirth, and 99% of these deaths occur in low- and middle-income countries. These deaths are overwhelmingly preventable, and it is simply unjust that a woman’s chance to survive childbirth depends on where she lives. Access to skilled care and medicines during pregnancy and at delivery, treatment of other illnesses like HIV, and access to services to plan and space pregnancies can drastically reduce deaths.
When women have the information and services they need to time and space their pregnancies in the healthiest way, their families are healthier and prosper economically. In fact, analysis has shown that preventing unintended pregnancies and improving birth spacing has the greatest potential to reduce child and maternal deaths.
Healthy behaviors are essential to promoting health and saving the lives of children and women. Evidence-based approaches to encouraging healthy behaviors, such as breastfeeding, handwashing, seeking medical treatment, and using bednets, are an essential component of all maternal and child health programs.
Nearly 800 million people around the world don’t have access to clean water, and approximately 2.5 billion don’t have access to modern sanitation. This puts them at risk for diseases like diarrhea. Diarrhea is a leading cause of child deaths worldwide, and about one-third of those deaths could be prevented through access to clean water, proper sanitation, and good hygiene practices.
A ROADMAP TO BETTER HEALTH
In 2014, the U.S. Agency of International Development (USAID) unveiled a roadmap to scale up proven interventions and, along with partners, save the lives of 15 million children and 600,000 women by 2020. The United States must continue its leadership in child and maternal health by supporting cost effective, high-impact programs and scaling up innovations to save more lives, faster.
No Family should lose a child in the first days of life. No child should lose their mother during delivery. And for those mothers and babies surviving the birthing process, none should suffer the dire consequences of diseases that we know how to prevent and treat.
Dr. Ariel Pablos-Méndez, Child and Maternal Survival Coordinator, USAID
INTERNATIONAL AID IS WORKING.
Around the world, more children are surviving, and more mothers are living to watch them grow. And that means more communities are thriving. Millions of people use the training and education they didn’t previously have in order to improve their lives, and the results are tangible: the number of children who die before age the age of five has shrunk by almost half. This isn’t by chance – it’s because hundreds of organizations and individuals have worked together.