I just returned from India‘s “Call to Action Summit for Child Survival and Development“, which took place in Mahabalipuram, Tamil Nadu.
India accounts for the largest number of deaths of children under five: nearly 1.5 million per year. This number is staggering, but there is good news. There has been a steady rate of decline in child mortality — even ahead of the global rate of reduction. As I told DevEx during the Summit, “success in India is paramount to see the global success and vision of ending preventable child deaths in this generation.”
Led by India’s Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, the Summit called for an accelerated response to decrease child mortality across the country. This event was a direct outcome of the Call to Action held in Washington, DC last year — where India joined Ethiopia and the United States with UNICEF to launch a global roadmap to end preventable child deaths globally. About 300 policymakers, public health practitioners, private sector, civil society and media representatives attended India’s Summit, including 27 international and 35 national experts. Notably 20 State delegations were present. U.S. Ambassador Nancy Powell, a stalwart advocate for child survival, addressed the opening plenary on behalf of the United States.
The Summit had several main themes related to child survival and development: quality of newborn care, interventions for preventing diarrhea and pneumonia, social determinants of child survival, nutrition, strengthening health systems, improving accountability, communication for child survival, partnerships for improved maternal and child health, and leadership dialogue. The complete agenda and speakers can be found on the Summit’s website.
There was a rich discussion at the Summit along with solid deliverables. The Government of India launched the Reproductive Maternal Neonatal Child Health Adolescent health strategy (RMNCH+A), which serves as a roadmap for the States. Also released were several guidance documents including implementation of newborn care as well as management of pneumonia and diarrhea. A National Child Survival Scorecard was showcased, and States were encouraged to develop their own scorecards and to monitor progress.
India’s Call to Action is the beginning of a national movement. Attendees demonstrated a passionate commitment to mobilize on behalf of India’s children — and to hold each other to account. India’s leadership and programmatic success will help galvanize the global response. USAID will continue to be a steadfast partner of “A Promise Renewed”, the sustained effort led by UNICEF to reach our global goal. Working together, ending preventable child deaths will be one of the greatest moral victories of our time.