Yesterday, UNICEF announced that the world is steadily moving forward on improving child survival. Their latest progress report confirms that the estimated annual number of under-five deaths has decreased by almost half since 1990, from 12.7 million to from 6.3 million. What's even better? This rate is falling fast and almost 100 million children have been saved in the past two decades.
Despite these encouraging successes, I was struck that this progress is not enough to meet Millennium Development Goal (MDG) 4—reducing childhood mortality by two-thirds. Measles, a disease that can be prevented by a vaccine, still kills an estimated 122,000 children per year. Dr. Richard Horton, Editor-in-Chief of The Lancet put it best when he said, "it is unacceptable, at this stage, to see complacency." More work needs to be done so no child dies of a preventable cause by their fifth birthday.
Shot@Life is committed to reducing childhood mortality by bringing access to vaccines to children around the globe. We need your support to renew our promise to all children. How can you step up the progress?
Together, we can further reduce these unnecessary deaths and give more children a shot at a happy life.
I'm sure you have been following the medical cases in California where state health officials are tracking as many as 25 children who are displaying "polio-like" symptoms. Although these children do not suffer from polio, their deteriorating condition brings to the forefront the devastation that polio can cause for pockets of our world's children.
Polio is a highly infectious virus spread by person to person contact. In environments with poor levels of hygiene and water, the virus has an easy vehicle to infect people. Most people infected with the virus have no signs of illness and are never aware they have been infected. These symptomless individuals carry the virus in their body and can silently spread it to thousands of others before the first case of polio paralysis emerges.
At its peak in the 1950s, polio paralyzed up to 20,000 people a year in the U.S., mostly children. Widespread immunization efforts wiped out the disease in the U.S. Fast forward 50+ years and polio still remains endemic in three countries: Pakistan, Afghanistan and Nigeria.
I have received emails from Shot@Life supporters following the national news coverage of these unfortunate cases in California. You all want to know: What does this mean for polio globally? First, it is important to remember that these cases are not polio cases, but they do serve as an unfortunate reminder that it wasn't too long ago that polio was still affecting children in the U.S. and we must continue to educate Americans about the need for polio vaccinations worldwide.
We are so close to eradicating this disease Use this national awareness to educate your local community on the importance of supporting global polio vaccinations. Contact your local opinion editors and let them know you have a perspective on this issue. I look forward to a time when everyone in the world can think of polio as a "thing of the past".
Back in 2011, GAVI Alliance was challenged with ambitious goals. Partners and donors tasked the Alliance with immunising 370 million children in the poorest countries in the world and averting 4 million future deaths by 2015. Halfway through the 2011-2015 period, the same partners and donors gathered in Stockholm, in Sweden, on 30th October to review the progress made to date. Thanks to an unprecedented scale up in activities, our stakeholders were able to conclude that the Alliance is well on its way to meeting its bold targets.
But we were also facing a different challenge. As we started to tell partners about our progress, many commented that while we were "delivering together" on the promises made in 2011, we were also not doing quite enough to let the world know about these successes. So we reached out. In the months leading to the Stockholm meeting, a number of partners such as the United Nations Foundation, ONE, Gates Foundation, the World Bank and World Vision lent their digital platforms to carry the immunisation success stories of this daily fight against childhood diseases. Many news media in the US, UK, France, Sweden and in implementing countries such as Ghana, added context and a critical view to these successes. Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) reminded us that more has to be done to reach the 20 million children that currently don't have access to the most basic vaccines, Save the Children issued its own report reviewing GAVI’s progress, and Action produced a scorecard to analyse our achievements and pledges. These joint efforts to inform and review deserve our gratitude, and they will also serve as inspiration in the time to come.
As we look at completing the 2015 objective of saving 4 million lives while setting new and more ambitious goals for 2020, more creative ideas will be needed from GAVI Alliance partners to keep our audiences moved, challenged, interested and engaged. The word is out, it’s now our task to continue this year’s momentum by sharing more inspiring immunisation stories than ever before. This way, by 2015 we’ll have presented a clear picture of the demands, necessity and incredible impact of large-scale immunisation, and of why slowing down now is unacceptable.
If we can do this, we will also never lose sight of what lies at the heart of GAVI’s achievements so far: the amazing work conducted with vaccines in the world’s poorest countries every day, where healthcare providers are saving lives, one child and one village at a time.
On September 15, my son, Noah, celebrated his third birthday.
In the midst of the party balloons, train-shaped cookies and chocolate cake, I thought of another reason for parents to celebrate around the world. The child mortality rate has been cut in half.
According to a report from UNICEF, 6.6 million children under five died last year – down from 12.6 million in 1990. Even though this is amazing progress, children are still succumbing to malaria, pneumonia and diarrhea. We still have work to do in saving children from preventable diseases.
While lighting Noah’s cake, I was reminded of the many more candles we can put on birthday cakes around the world. How can you help today?
Let's get this number even lower and let more children celebrate more fun birthdays.
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