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Calling For Child Survival In India

Indian street children eat food at a shanty town in Hyderabad.
Indian street children eat food at a shanty town in Hyderabad.

Conference sought comprehensive and local solutions that encourage country-ownership.

Nearly 1.5 million children in the populous nation of India die before their fifth birthday every year. But, while India accounts for the largest number of child deaths in the world, Dr. Ariel Pablos-Mendez, Assistant Administrator for Global Health at USAID, notes that the country has been taking measures to reverse this trend:

“India has been doing such a great job that mortality has been declining faster than the global average. So India is really on its way. But there are many challenges.”

Calling For Child Survival In India
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About 300 policymakers, public health practitioners, private sector, civil society and media representatives gathered recently in Mahabalipuram, Tamil Nadu to find ways to address challenges related to child survival.

The "Call to Action Summit for Child Survival and Development" took place as part of a larger initiative that challenges countries to lower their national rates of child mortality by 2035. Under the banner of Committing to Child Survival: A Promise Renewed, more than 170 countries have pledged to scale up efforts to lower preventable child death rates to 20 or fewer deaths per 1,000 live births.

The conference, held in mid-February sought comprehensive and local solutions that encourage country-ownership.

India’s initiatives include launching national and state-wide scorecards to track progress and involve state-governments in the effort. Partners from the corporate sector and NGOs pledged funding for various projects. In addition, the Government of India announced an increase in financing for public health. Funding will be used to train skilled birth attendants and provide neonatal equipment, among other initiatives.

The goal, said Dr. Pablos-Mendez, is a strategy that takes every stage of mother and child health into account:

“Child health always occurs in context of all these continuum of cares.”

The overall effort to end preventable child deaths was launched in 2012 as “Child Survival Call to Action.” The Governments of India, Ethiopia and the United States in collaboration with UNICEF, convened the Ministers of Health, Finance and Development, as well as decision makers and thought leaders of multilateral agencies, civil society, the faith community, academia and industry in Washington D.C. last June.

Participants sought to celebrate successes, understand obstacles and identify high-impact child survival strategies necessary to accelerate progress toward ending preventable child deaths.

“We are here,” USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah told representatives, “Because you believe that for the first time in history, we have the tools, the knowledge and the experience to achieve this remarkable goal.”