|Calling for action (from left): President of Afghanistan Hamid Karzai, President of Madagascar Marc Ravalomanana, Her Majesty Queen Rania Al-Abdullah of Jordan, Norwegian Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg, child activist Aminata Palmer of Sierra Leone and UNICEF Executive Director Ann M. Veneman.|
By Jane O’Brien
NEW YORK, USA, 18 September 2006 – World leaders gathered in New York today to accelerate global efforts to save the lives of some 10.5 million children under the age of five who die needlessly every year.
The Symposium on Child Survival – organized by UNICEF, the Lancet health journal and the Norwegian Government – brought together experts and policy-makers at UNICEF headquarters.
UNICEF Executive Director Ann M. Veneman said the fourth Millennium Development Goal of reducing child mortality by two-thirds by 2015 was achievable, but she warned there was still a long way to go.
“Only seven countries are on target to reach MDG 4,” she said. “Thirty-nine have either made insufficient progress or no progress at all. Fourteen countries have actually sustained increases in their under-five mortality rates, many of which are affected by conflict situations or a high incidence of HIV and AIDS.”
|UNICEF Executive Director Ann M. Veneman presents some of the findings of a new UNICEF/WHO report on pneumonia, which is the leading killer of children under five - killing more children than AIDS, malaria and measles combined.|
Pneumonia, measles, malaria and diarrhoea cause the majority of child deaths, and all are preventable. Among the key speakers was President Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan, which has the second-worst child mortality rate in the world and where one in five children dies before reaching age five.
“Sixty per cent of deaths in my country of children are exactly because of the diseases just mentioned,” he said. “Diarrhoea and other diseases are easily diagnosed, easily treated and easily preventable.”
President Karzai said continued insecurity in Afghanistan was directly related to the increase in cases of polio there in the last 12 months, because health workers were unable to immunize children in unsafe parts of the country.
|Afghanistan's President Hamid Karzai addresses the high-level Symposium on Child Mortality. One in five Afghan children dies before reaching the age of five.|
Other speakers called for more investment in vaccines and child health services. Norway has pledged a total of $1.3 billion to achieve MDG 4 by 2015. And Her Majesty Queen Rania Al Abdullah of Jordon said more money was vital.
“A study by UNICEF and the World Health Organization found that for roughly an additional $1 billion a year, 10 million lives could be saved through child and maternal immunization between now and 2015,” she said.
“One billion dollars, compared to the $300 billion the world spends on agricultural subsidies and the $900 billion it puts towards military expenditures each year,” Queen Rania continued. “Surely $1 billion to save 10 million lives is a price we can afford?”
The event concluded with a roundtable discussion calling for wider implementation of child survival strategies that are known to work. The symposium was also aimed at furthering knowledge, renewing optimism and re-focusing efforts to reduce child mortality.
Success is critically important, participants said – not only because children’s lives are at stake but because MDG 4 has been described as the litmus test for every other Millennium Development Goal.
18 September 2006:
UNICEF correspondent Jane O’Brien reports on renewed efforts to save the lives 10.5 million children who die each year, most from preventable causes.
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from The Newsmarket
Child Survival Symposium
Press release: Tracking Progress on Child Survival
Publication: Pneumonia: The forgotten killer of children
Partnership: The Lancet: Special issue on child survival
Photo essay: MDG4: Reducing child mortality
Fighting for child survival in Niger [with video]
Women volunteers save children in Nepal [with video]
Measles and tetanus campaign in Afghanistan [with video]