The world has just 10 years in which to fulfil the promise of the Millennium Declaration and the Millennium Development Goals. These Goals provide a blueprint for human progress on the most important issues of our time - including hunger and poverty, child and maternal health and survival, education, gender equality, combating deadly diseases and protecting the environment. Making headway on an individual goal can yield results on others, and an integrated approach to interventions is the surest pathway to sustainable development.
Children are at the heart of the Millennium Development Goals, for they are the most vulnerable in society and their needs are often the greatest. Achieving the Goals will mean a better future for children and a more secure world in which they will live. Yet, for all the progress that has been made in our world of ingenuity and innovation, it is unconscionable that there are still 10.6 million children who die each year, mainly of preventable causes.
Few things yield greater benefits for the health, well-being and survival of children than immunization. This report card - part of a series in which UNICEF monitors progress for children in the lead-up to 2015 - measures the world's performance in this critical area.
The benefits of immunization are indisputable. It is a proven, cost-effective means of reducing morbidity, disability and mortality among children. In 2003 alone, it prevented more than 2 million deaths. Immunization also stimulates the development of health systems and represents a sound economic investment, contributing to better health and to poverty reduction.
The consequences of failing to sustain and enhance immunization cannot be overstated: the re-emergence of diseases that were formerly under control, the spread of diseases to countries where they had already been eliminated, and the continuing toll taken by death and disability upon millions of children in developing countries.
Vast progress was made during the 1980s, levelling out in the 1990s. Recapturing that momentum is vital to one critical Millennium Development Goal - reducing under-five mortality by two thirds between 1990 and 2015 - and will undoubtedly make significant contributions to others.
In the years since the Millennium Declaration, new vigour has been invested in the drive towards universal immunization. Several global partnerships have had conspicuous success in mobilizing substantial resources for immunization and in bringing together both the public and private sectors in the pursuit of shared goals.
In addition, in May 2005 the World Health Organization and UNICEF launched a Global Immunization Vision and Strategy for the period 2006 to 2015. More recently, UNICEF joined others to announce a Partnership for Maternal, Newborn and Child Health, which will galvanize valuable leadership on these issues.
We hope that these partnerships, and this infusion of new energy, will make significant and sustained contributions to child survival. The children of the world are counting on us all.
Ann M. Veneman
Executive Director, UNICEF