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Saving Children Under 5

An Indian homeless child eats food as his mother cooks by a road side on a cold and foggy morning in Allahabad, India, Tuesday, Dec. 20, 2011.

Every child should have the opportunity to celebrate his or her fifth birthday.

Every child should have the opportunity to celebrate his or her fifth birthday. But some 7 million, 6 hundred thousand kids die within the first five years of life.

Most die of preventable diseases like malaria or diarrheal illnesses caused by contaminated water, and too frequently they succumb to these maladies because their bodies are not as strong as they should be. This is frequently caused by poor nutrition available to the mother during pregnancy.

That is why the United States Agency for International Development, or USAID, recently launched “Every Child Deserves A Fifth Birthday,” an awareness-raising campaign leading up to the mid-June “Child Survival: Call to Action” two day conference. This high-level forum, convened by the governments of the United States, India and Ethiopia, together with the United Nations Children’s Fund, or UNICEF, will mobilize political, non-governmental and private actors to end preventable child deaths.

“Our focus is on building political will and driving collective action around a global roadmap -- and developing mechanisms to hold all countries to account,” wrote USAID Chief Administrator Dr. Rajiv Shah in a recent article.

Recent advancements in technologies such as vaccines and other preventive medical treatments have prevented thousands of deaths, as has the availability of low-cost tools that help women and community workers save newborn babies' lives in the critical 48 hours after birth, said Dr Shah.

“The combination of these advances and capabilities plus some new data and modeling indicate that if we think seriously about this and if we make some pretty significant changes in the way we work to eliminate preventable child death – we can eliminate preventable child death and we can bring the rate of under-five mortality in developing countries down to something that approximates the current OECD [Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development] country average and that would account for saving about 6 million kids a year,” he said.

Seeing a child die of a preventable disease is the greatest fear of parents the world over. No family should have to live this fear, and no child should have to suffer that fate.