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FP2020: Plans, Partnerships and Progress – One Year On

This originally appeared on The Huffington Post Blog.

Sometimes it’s hard to tell if your work really makes a difference. Three months after the London Summit on Family Planning, I led a delegation of UNFPA supporters to Ghana. We saw a diverse and inspiring range of maternal health programs — from government hospitals to an entrepreneurial midwife who designed and produced birthing stools with the help of a local carpenter.

In Tamale, we visited a brand new Marie Stopes clinic fully stocked with a range of modern contraceptive methods. It was located in the heart of the city, at a vibrant, open air market that stands at the crossroads of three ancient trade routes. For the women and men who work there, the clinic could not be more convenient — they could easily dash off for an appointment or for supplies.

Ghana woman at USAID health event. Photo credit: USAID

From there we flew north to Bolgatanga, then traveled by bus towards the border with Burkina Faso. As we drove, the tarmac gave way to unpaved roads. Cracks became grooves, and grooves became ditches. As the hours passed, the villages became smaller and the distance between them grew. Wherever we were headed, it felt worlds away from the hustle and bustle of Tamale.

Finally we arrived at our destination: a plain, L-shaped building in a small compound. It was a Planned Parenthood of Ghana clinic that provides an integrated mix of family planning and other health education and services.

Despite its remoteness, we were greeted with as much enthusiasm and excitement as we felt in Tamale. About 200 people — village elders, mothers and fathers, grandmothers and grandfathers, children — had come out to show support for their clinic. They told us about the difference the clinic was making in their lives. In this isolated location, it was their only source of medical care.

But as we toured the facility, I happened to notice one person who wasn’t taking part in the excitement. Her name was Afia, and she sat very quietly, in a corner, on a hard wooden bench. A midwife was by her side.

Afia’s face was etched in pain, but her cries were muted. With quiet dignity, and few of the trappings that attend births in countries like my own, I found out she was in labor to deliver her first child.

As a mother myself, I knew how scared she must have felt. I also knew that in Ghana, for every 100,000 women who go into labor, 350 die giving birth or because of pregnancy-related complications. The statistics can be numbing.

Afia remained on my mind and two days later, I learned she had a lovely baby girl, and both mother and child were happy and most importantly, healthy.

I know that in the coming months and years, the clinic will help Afia keep herself and her baby healthy, and will give her the contraceptives she needs to plan her family and her future.

Our work does make a difference. This is what Family Planning 2020 is all about: reaching women, no matter where they live, with the information, services and supplies they need. Program by program, clinic by clinic, and woman by woman.

One year after the London Summit on Family Planning, I am pleased to report that FP2020 continues to build the foundations of a global movement and is accelerating progress towards achieving our goal of reaching an additional 120 million women with lifesaving contraceptive information, services and supplies by 2020.

Countries are championing the cause — over twenty governments have already made commitments and a few more are gearing up to do so. National, costed family planning plans are being drafted and implemented, new health laws are being passed and service delivery barriers are being addressed. Price-reduction agreements on long-acting, reversible contraceptive implants and the scale-up in delivery of discreet, injectable contraceptives ensures that millions of women will be able to access a range of family planning methods. We’ve improved relations with allies, built and strengthened new partnerships, and established our global governance framework. I am proud of what we’ve accomplished together.

And yet, I remain acutely aware that the work of FP2020 has only just begun. We have so much more to do to ensure that family planning remains front and center on the global development agenda. This will require even stronger international partnerships to uphold and guard the unified aspirations of millions of women and girls to chart their own future.

Women like Afia are depending on us to keep the promises we made one year ago at the London Summit. As we move forward into the second year of FP2020, I am convinced and confident that working together, we shall.

Angola Embraces New WHO Guidelines That Pave Way for Universal HIV Treatment for Pregnant Women

B. Ryan Phelps is Medical Officer for PMTCT and Pediatric HIV, and Melanie Tam is a PMTCT Intern. Both work in the Office of HIV/AIDS. Photo credits: Victoria Guerra and Melanie Tam.

“Oh, most definitely. Most definitely,” Nurse Maria responded [in Portuguese]. I had asked if expectant, HIV-infected mothers in her clinic were excited about lifelong HIV treatment.

As in many clinics in Angola’s Luanda province, the sound of women, babies, and traffic surrounded us with a unique din. Leaning in closer, Nurse Maria continued, “They want to breastfeed and they want to stay healthy to care for their babies. Lifelong treatment lets them do that.”

That was on June 28I was part of a visiting delegation reviewing Angola’s prevention of mother-to-child transmission of HIV (PMTCT) portfolio for the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR). Two days later, the World Health Organization (WHO) released its new 2013 consolidated guidelines for antiretroviral treatment (ART). These guidelines pave the way toward lifelong treatment for all pregnant and breastfeeding women with HIV, regardless of CD4 count or clinical stage.

Physicians, nurses, and community health workers of Clinical Km 12 with PEPFAR technical consultants during site visit. Photo credit: Dr. Samson Ngonyani

Angola’s National Institute in the Fight against AIDS (INLS) has already drafted guidelines to reflect many of these changes. Angola’s new guidelines provide an opportunity to significantly expand access to PMTCT for the country’s pregnant women living with HIV. One in five of these women currently receive the drugs and services required to protect their babies from infection. Unfortunately, because access to HIV treatment among infants and children in Angola is minimal, infection often means that these children face either a fast (<1 year) or slow (1-5 years) death.

Knowing this all too well, Nurse Maria, with support from PEPFAR, USAID Angola and USAID’s partner, ForcaSaude, has begun preparing for the transition to universal treatment. Maria works in a clinic called, “Clinico Kilometero 12″, after the nearest distance marker along a very busy road outside of Luanda, Angola’s capitol. It is a lively place, and thousands of mothers depend on the clinic near kilometer 12 for their pre- and post-natal care.

I met one of these mothers while there. Her name was Gloria, and she let me hold her healthy, newborn baby girl. These few seconds of face-time with one of PEPFAR’s newest beneficiaries was easily the highlight of my week.

As for the new WHO guidelines, I am not going to go into too much detail about them here. Global health policy documents, even those that exist to protect babies like Gloria’s, are not exactly page-turners. I will say, however, that these new guidelines are the product of over a year of work with dozens of global partners, including USAID. They represent the first ever consolidated global HIV guidelines, incorporating all age groups, several life-preserving interventions, as well as specific, practical programmatic guidance. And for the first time, these guidelines provide an option for universal, lifelong treatment of pregnant mothers who test HIV-positive.

Approximately 5,800 new pediatric HIV infections occur in Angola each year–one in fifty of all children born with HIV worldwide. Nurse Maria and others like her, with support from PEPFAR through USAID, are striving to change that. It is a hopeful time in Angola. If you doubt this, drive approximately 12 kilometers outside downtown Luanda and see for yourself.

Ensuring Access to Reproductive Health for All

Approximately 16 million girls ages 15 to 19 (most of them already married) give birth each year. On July 11, World Population Day, we join the global community in raising awareness on the issue of adolescent pregnancy in the hopes of protecting and empowering millions of girls around the globe.

Adolescent pregnancy has dire health, social and economic consequences for girls, their communities, and nations. Complications from pregnancy and childbirth are a leading cause of death for girls ages 15 to 19 in low-and middle-income countries. Stillbirths and death are 50 per cent more likely for babies born to mothers younger than 20 than for babies born to mothers in their 20s. We know that girls who become pregnant often face discrimination within their communities, drop out of school, and have more children at shorter intervals throughout their lifetime. A World Bank study (PDF) found that the lifetime opportunity cost related to adolescent pregnancy in developing countries ranges from 10 percent of annual GDP in Brazil to 30 percent of annual GDP in Uganda.

World Population Day 2013 aims to draw awareness to the issue of adolescent pregnancy. Photo credit: Netsanet Assaye, Courtesy of Photoshare

I believe meeting the reproductive health needs for today’s young people is vital to ensure future generations are able to lead healthy and dignified lives.  In developing countries overall, 22 per cent of adolescent girls (aged 15-19) who are married or in union use contraceptives, compared to 61 percent of married girls and women aged 15-49 (PDF). Lack of information, fear of side effects, and other barriers—geographic, social, and economic—prevent young people from obtaining and using family planning methods.

It’s appropriate that this World Population Day also marks a year since the historic London Summit on Family Planning, and the launch of Family Planning 2020. This global partnership supports the right of women and girls to decide, freely, and for themselves, whether, when, and how many children they want to have. I am proud to be on the Reference Group of the Family Planning 2020 initiative (PDF) that aims to enable 120 million more women and girls to access family planning information and services by 2020.

As the largest bilateral donor for family planning, USAID is uniquely poised to accelerate progress and improve education and access to reproductive health services for youth.  We support programs and research on adolescent health and development, and we have approaches that work to improve knowledge and change behaviors. Our programs focus on gender equality, because we know that boys and men who have access to reproductive health information and services are better able to protect their own health, support their partners, and participate in planning of their future and that of their families.

USAID is committed to protecting reproductive rights for all people and especially for the world’s adolescents and youth. Young people are the future, and we want and need their valued contributions to and participation in the social, economic, political, and cultural life of their communities.

Follow @USAIDGH on Twitter and join the conversation about World Population Day using the #WorldPopDay hashtag. Share our new infographic on adolescent pregnancy.

Pledge Guarantee for Health: Working Better, Faster and Smarter

As we enter the last 1,000 days of the Millennium Development Goals we need to make every dollar we spend go further. But we cannot continue to conduct business as usual. The Brookings Institute estimates that the volatility of development aid costs as much as 28 cents of every dollar spent -impeding our ability to deliver results for those in need.

Instead, we must work better, faster and smarter. By using new and groundbreaking tools that can improve the efficiency and predictability of donor financing, we can ensure that life-saving goods arrive in time to save lives. Pledge Guarantee for Health (PGH) is one such simple, yet innovative tool that can help speed the delivery of critical health commodities by 6-8 months.

Aron Betru, Managing Director of Pledge Guarantee for Health, left, and Dr. Raj Shah, Administrator USAID, right, sign the new guarantee agreement between USAID, Swedish SIDA and Pledge Guarantee for Health. Photo credit: USAID

PGH provides countries with working capital to help smooth over any delays in donor aid disbursements, giving them time to plan their procurements. Better planning enables countries to get more value for money by negotiating better prices with suppliers and reducing the cost of shipments. Most importantly, countries are able to accelerate delivery of, and access to, necessary health commodities.

PGH already has a proven track record for delivering results: in Zambia, PGH worked with the World Bank to facilitate an innovative financing solution that helped accelerate the delivery of bednets before the start of the rainy season. The end result: the bednets arrived on time averting an epidemic AND due to incentives built into the partnership, the World Bank worked with the Government of Zambia to ultimately provide one of their fastest disbursements ever.

USAID, in partnership with Swedish SIDA, is proud to help support and scale up PGH by providing a $50 million credit guarantee using USAID’s Development Credit Authority (DCA). This co- guarantee will allow PGH to access up to $100 million of credit from commercial banks. This $100 million of credit can “revolve” up to 10 times, meaning it has the potential to generate up to $1 billion of transaction over the five year guarantee period.

USAID’s participation in this effort is through a partnership between the Development Credit Authority (DCA) and the Bureau for Global Health’s Center for Accelerating Innovation and Impact (CII). DCA has successfully used similar risk-sharing mechanisms in 72 countries around the world, and has unlocked $2.7 billion in credit for developmentally-important projects and businesses. CII uses business-minded approaches to address key bottlenecks in the development, introduction, and scale up of global health technologies and interventions.

USAID’s support of this initiative reflects the Agency’s effort to utilize innovative financing mechanisms to leverage private capital to stretch limited aid dollars further. We are committed to working with our partners in the international development, financing, and supplier communities to ensure that we maximize the value of every dollar spent, ending preventable maternal and child deaths and changing the face of poverty forever.

 

USAID’s Employee HIV Testing Campaign

“Hit early and hit hard,” advises Dr. David Ho, Director and CEO of the Aaron Diamond AIDS Research Center. Referring to the importance of rapid treatment for HIV infection, this advice requires early and frequent HIV testing, so that antiretroviral treatment can be initiated as soon as possible. Early initiation of treatment has dramatic implications for the quality and length of an infected person’s life. Nowadays, if someone tests positive for HIV and initiates treatment once eligible, that person can expect to live a relatively normal and healthy life (assuming they maintain a regular treatment routine).

Assistant Administrator for Global Health Dr. Ariel Pablos-Méndez (left) and Deputy Assistant Administrator Wade Warren (right) listen to Community Education Group counselor and tester Miriam Jones explain how to use the oral swab. Photo credit: Molly Schmalzbach, USAID

In honor of National HIV Testing Day on June 27, USAID offered free HIV screening to all USAID employees at the Federal Occupational Health Center in the Ronald Reagan Building. Community Education Group provided the health screenings, which included HIV counseling and testing and a high blood pressure screening. Even though we were fully booked, some hard work on the part of our testers enabled the accommodation of quite a few walk-ins, bringing the total number of people tested to 64!

This employee HIV testing campaign was designed to both promote HIV testing and destigmatize the act of getting tested. The Bureau for Global Health’s senior management team led by example: Assistant Administrator for Global Health Dr. Ariel Pablos-Méndez, Deputy Assistant Administrator Robert Clay, Deputy Assistant Administrator Wade Warren, and Deputy Director of the Office of HIV and AIDS Paul Mahanna each agreed to be tested and even smiled for the camera! As Mahanna said of HIV counseling and testing, “It’s critically important. Everyone should know their status and get tested frequently. I’ve been tested countless times.”

Deputy Director of the Office of HIV and AIDS Paul Mahanna (left) and Deputy Assistant Administrator Robert Clay (right) test themselves for HIV using the oral swab. Photo credit: Molly Schmalzbach, USAID

Thanks so much to Community Education Group and the Federal Occupational Health Center for providing invaluable support and coordination for this event. Learn more about how to get tested for HIV in the DC area and across the country.

Learn more about how USAID is trying to keep on the forefront of the global AIDS crisis. 

Partnering to Control and Eliminate Cholera in Hispaniola

In October 2010, the Haitian Ministry of Health and Population announced the detection of cholera in the Artibonite Department, located north of Port-Au-Prince. After enduring a devastating earthquake in January 2010, the cholera epidemic hit like a knock-out punch.

Cholera is a diarrheal disease caused by a bacteria that spreads rapidly through contaminated water. When people get cholera, they get very sick, very fast, and the risk of death is high if left untreated. A matter of hours can make a difference.

Personnel distribute USAID hygiene kits at a Cholera Treatment Center in Verrettes in the Artibonite department of Haiti. Photo by Kendra Helmer/USAID

In Haiti, cholera attacked a population with no previous exposure and therefore no immunity against the bacteria. Before this outbreak, Haiti had not been affected by cholera in over a century. Over the last two and half years, 658,053 people have contracted cholera in Haiti, and 8,120 have died.

The World Health Organization estimates that 1.4 billion people are at risk of getting cholera every year, and annually 2.8 million cases of cholera occur globally. Since cholera spreads via contaminated water, it thrives in post-disaster environments. Even in the United States, post Hurricane Katrina, emergency personnel attended to many people infected with a bacteria closely related to cholera.

The increased risk of infectious diseases is a recurrent public health concern in post-disaster situations. In the U.S., we have the infrastructure needed to detect and respond to outbreaks, to stop their spread. In Haiti, USAID is working to strengthen the Ministry of Health’s capacity to detect and control infectious diseases and provide timely life-saving care. USAID is committed to assisting the Government of Haiti to combat this epidemic.

When tackling an outbreak of this magnitude, it is essential to work with key partners to leverage each other’s strengths. Today, USAID became an official member of the Coalition on Water and Sanitation for the Elimination of Cholera in Hispaniola. To add to the ongoing efforts of the Pan American Health Organization, the Centers for Disease Control, UNICEF and other strategic partners, USAID has pledged to support the Government of Haiti’s plan to eliminate cholera from Hispaniola.

USAID’s current work already contributes to this goal through many different avenues that focus on cholera prevention as well as treatment and control. Since contaminated water is the source of cholera, USAID works via its implementing partners to ensure that Haitians have access to safe drinking water at their homes, health centers and schools and makes safe water products available for water decontamination. Since the beginning of the outbreak, USAID programs have mobilized thousands of community workers throughout Haiti to conduct awareness activities that focus on hygiene and sanitation practices that help prevent cholera.

When someone falls ill of cholera, it is important to recognize signs of dehydration and have swift access to treatment. USAID trains mothers and caregivers to recognize these dangerous signs and use oral rehydration products. If medical attention is needed, USAID’s extensive network of health facilities, present throughout the country, has the necessary resources and training to manage this disease.

USAID will continue to work in partnership with the Government of Haiti to improve the health of all Haitians and will coordinate extensively with members of the Coalition to leverage our efforts to eliminate cholera from Hispaniola.

On the Front Lines in Africa

Nowhere is development such an important part of U.S. engagement as it is in Africa. In anticipation of the President’s trip next week, we thought we’d share some of our favorite FrontLines stories about our work in Africa. President Obama’s strategies on global development and Africa have laid the foundation for a new approach that focus on sustainable development and a new operational model for assistance. We look forward to the opportunities that this visit will bring.

Our Favorites include:

Food Security

Child Survival

Innovation

Women and Development

Conflict Mitigation and Prevention

  • Ethiopia: Peace Brokers: USAID-sponsored reconciliation efforts usher in historic truce accord in Ethiopia’s pastoral south.

Democracy, Human Rights, and Government

Humanitarian Assistance

Resilience

  • Niger: Niger’s Tree of Life: In the face of recurring food insecurity and acute malnutrition, USAID is promoting the cultivation of hardy, vitamin-packed moringa as one way to build resilience in communities in the drought-prone Sahel.

Follow @USAID and @rajshah on Twitter for updates on the trip and to learn more about our work in Africa. Join the conversation using #USAIDAfrica.

Introducing SILCS: It’s Not Your Mother’s Diaphragm

In the early 20th century,  distribution of and education about contraceptives were illegal in the United States, leading to the widespread use of ineffective contraceptive methods. This continued until Margaret Sanger visited a Dutch birth control clinic where she learned about diaphragms and thus began a revolution in the United States. The diaphragm was the first safe and effective woman-initiated contraception in much of the world and was widely used in the United States and other countries until the introduction of the birth control pill. While use of the device has decreased over the past 50 years, a comeback may be in the wings.

The SILCS Diaphragm, set to officially launch in Europe this June, is the first new cervical barrier method that will enter the market in more than a decade.

The SILCS Diaphragm is the first new cervical barrier method that will enter the market in more than a decade. Photo credit: Kessel Marketing

PATH, in collaboration with CONRAD and funded by USAID, designed the one-size-fits-most SILCS Diaphragm to increase access to nonhormonal barrier contraception for women in low-resource settings, as well as developed countries. PATH led a user-centered design process involving input from women, their partners, and providers. The design was then verified in clinical studies by couples in the Dominican Republic, South Africa, Thailand, and the United States. The single size should remove the need for a pelvic exam and fit assessment which are obstacles to both providers and women in many settings.   PATH licensed the SILCS design to Kessel Marketing & Vertriebs GmbH of Frankfurt, Germany, who will introduce the device as the Caya™ contoured diaphragm.

While SILCS was developed to expand women’s options for nonhormonal barrier contraception, SILCS has added value due to its potential to be used as a multipurpose prevention technology when paired with tenofovir gel—a product currently in Phase III clinical testing—which is designed to protect women from acquiring HIV.

CONRAD, which owns a license for tenofovir gel, is working on a protocol for a study that will assess the safety, pharmacokinetics, and pharmacodynamics of the SILCS plus tenofovir gel. Another study will evaluate the potential of a modified tenofovir gel as a contraceptive by pairing it with the SILCS to assess their ability to prevent sperm from penetrating cervical mucus.

PATH is working with research partners in India, South Africa, and Uganda to identify opportunities and challenges for future introduction of the single-size diaphragm in developing countries. There are 222 million women worldwide who would like to avoid pregnancy but aren’t using a modern method of contraception. Some women are either unable or unwilling to use hormonal contraceptives, and many also have infrequent sex and prefer to use a product that is on demand and woman initiated.

Imagine a world where every child born is planned and their mothers are free of HIV infection. As Louis Armstrong sang, what a wonderful world this could be.

Visit Medintim to learn more.

Follow @USAIDGH on Twitter and use #GHMatters to join in the conversation about global health issues.

Making a Fifth Birthday Within Reach

It’s been a year since the United States joined UNICEF and the governments of Ethiopia and India in a bold pledge to end preventable child deaths within a generation. Last week marked the first anniversary of the Child Survival Call to Action, which has since spurred a rejuvenated global movement under the banner “Committing to Child Survival: A Promise Renewed.” In the past year, 174 governments pledged to redouble efforts for children. More than 200 civil-society organizations, 91 faith-based organizations, and 290 faith leaders from 52 countries signed their own pledges of support.

June 14 marked the 1 year anniversary of the Child Survival: Call to Action. Photo credit: John Snow, Inc.

In the Rayburn House Office Building yesterday, members of Congress, PATH, the U.S. Agency for International Development’s (USAID’s) flagship Maternal and Child Health Integrated Program, the US Fund for UNICEF, and partner organizations celebrated the global commitment and the progress made so far. We also reminded ourselves of how critical it is to sustain this momentum because, to borrow the words of Anthony Lake, UNICEF’s executive director, “The story of child survival over the past two decades is one of significant progress and unfinished business.”

Progress: dramatic drop in child deaths

The number of children under age five who die each year has dropped from nearly 12 million in 1990 to less than 7 million in 2011. Translated another way, every day 14,000 children who would have otherwise died now live to see their fifth birthdays.

Particularly heartening is the progress made in countries that have carried some of the heaviest burden of child mortality. Nine countries, from Bangladesh to Cambodia to Rwanda, reduced their under-five mortality rate by 60 percent or more.

How far these countries have come is a testament to the unwavering commitment and sustained efforts of governments, the public and private sector, donors and nonprofits, civil-society groups, and communities. Other factors underpinning this global progress are impressive gains made in the research and development of medical technologies, improved ways of delivering health services, and bold new thinking in how we overcome roadblocks and speed up innovation for health equity.

Unfinished business: 7 million children

Today, almost two-thirds of child deaths are caused by diseases and conditions that rarely take a child’s life in wealthy countries, including diarrhea, malaria, tetanus, and measles. These deaths are also concentrated in a small number of countries—more than four-fifths occur in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia. This health inequity is deepened by poverty, violence, political fragility, and social disparity.

As the tremendous progress to date has shown, these are not insurmountable factors—but overcoming them requires ongoing cross-sector collaboration, multi-intervention solutions, and investment in innovative approaches.

Innovating health technologies

I joined PATH as head of its Drug Development program just under a year ago because I saw how global health organizations are driving many of the transformative innovations needed to achieve big goals like the Child Survival Call to Action. For more than 30 years, PATH and our partners have advanced innovative health technologies to protect children from devastating illnesses, make childbirth safer, and provide families with tools for a healthy life. Tools like a vaccine against meningitis A developed specifically for Africa, which has been introduced in ten countries and protected more than 103 million people from epidemic meningitis. Or tools like vaccines for rotavirus and pneumonia, which have been introduced in 14 GAVI-eligible countries, or a feeding technology that ensures that premature babies and those with a cleft palate can access lifesaving breast milk.

On the first anniversary of the Call to Action, I feel even more convinced of the importance of research and development of innovative health technologies to fight against the leading causes of child death. This is why at PATH we are currently working on solutions to tackle the top child killers, like diarrhea, on many fronts. We are developing new drugs to shorten the severity and duration of diarrhea before it becomes fatal, while also working to improve the effectiveness of proven diarrhea therapies like oral rehydration solution. PATH is also working on new vaccines against the leading causes of diarrheal disease, helping countries increase access to existing vaccines for both rotavirus and pneumonia, developing and delivering safe water treatment and storage products, and advancing health devices, such as a user-friendly product design for amoxicillin dispersible tablets to treat pneumonia.

The road ahead

Yesterday’s briefing is a reminder of the critical value of sustained commitment to our children. It is an opportunity to emphasize the power of innovation for child health and get inspired by the momentum behind the current efforts to create effective health solutions.

Among other factors, development of innovative health technologies and new methods to deliver these solutions to the people who need them will continue to drive the current momentum forward toward our common goal of ending preventable child and maternal deaths. Because access to necessary vaccines, drugs, basic medical and maternal care, clean water, and adequate nutrition should not be marked by a line of health inequity.

June 14 marked the 1 year anniversary of the Child Survival: Call to Action. One year ago, leaders committed to ending preventable child deaths. Learn more about A Promise Renewed.

 

A Promise Renewed: A Great Global Ambition and Every Father’s Dream

This originally appeared on the Huffington Post Blog

What will you be doing this Father’s Day?

Reading homemade cards? Playing catch with your kids? Grilling in the back yard with the family?

We often take such simple pleasures for granted. But, elsewhere, millions of fathers around the world will struggle to help their children survive and thrive.

In our respective roles, we meet these fathers — in remote villages, bustling cities, and refugee camps. They tell us inspiring stories of their fight to care for their families, but also the heartbreaking accounts of much-loved sons and daughters who have lost their lives to preventable diseases like malaria, pneumonia, diarrhea and HIV.

A mother plays with her infant as she waits outside a health post in Ethiopia. Photo credit: USAID

Every year, 6.9 million children under five die from these and other causes. 19,000 every day. That is equivalent to a stadium like Madison Square Garden filled to capacity.

Even crueler is the geography of fate. A child in sub-Saharan Africa is over 14 times more likely to die before reaching her or his 5th birthday than a child in the United States.

These deaths are more than a tragedy for individual children. They shatter families, diminish communities and hold nations back from progress and prosperity.

But amidst these sad statistics, there is cause for hope. Increasingly, innovations — new products, new technology and new applications of existing technology — help us reach the most disadvantaged communities and the most vulnerable children quickly and inexpensively.

For example, there are groundbreaking long lasting insecticide-treated bed nets that drastically reduce the number of children who die from malaria.

Or the three-drug regimen in one pill daily for pregnant women living with HIV. It protects their own health and helps prevent their babies and partners from HIV infection.

Or new vaccines to prevent pneumonia, diarrhea and cholera.

Thanks to innovations like these, we have an unprecedented opportunity to virtually end preventable child death. And we can do it in a generation.

To reach this goal — one year ago — the Governments of Ethiopia, India and the U.S., with UNICEF’s support, rallied the world behind the Child Survival Call to Action. It inspired a global movement — Committing to Child Survival: A Promise Renewed. Momentum continues to build and, today, 174 countries and over 400 civil society and faith-based organizations have taken up the charge in their own commitments.

In Zambia, First Lady Dr. Christine Kaseba is helping to roll out a plan focused on nutrition and immunization that will save more than 26,000 children each year. In the Democratic Republic of Congo, the Ministry of Health is implementing a plan to save half a million children by 2015. This includes distributing pre-packaged family kits that contain medicines and other supplies to prevent, diagnose and treat malaria, diarrhea and respiratory infections.

Similar initiatives are underway in Ethiopia, Bangladesh, Yemen and beyond, where governments, civil society and the private sector are mobilizing to fulfill the promise to give every child the best possible start in life.

In today’s world, great global ambitions require strong partnerships between the public and private sector. In India, a small pharmaceutical company is developing a new zinc syrup to help get a life-saving treatment for diarrhea into rural communities. Through the Helping Babies Breathe Alliance, private sector entrepreneurs and medical professionals are training and equipping over 100,000 health workers in 54 countries with life-saving tools such as affordable resuscitation equipment. The results are impressive. A study from Tanzania showed that these tools led to a 47 per cent drop in newborn deaths during the first 24 hours of life.

For the first time in history, we have the tools to end preventable child deaths. Now, we need to build the momentum.

Through new partnerships and a relentless focus on results, we can give fathers everywhere the same opportunity that so many of us will have today: to watch our children grow and thrive; to cheer them at a ball game; to nurture their curiosity; to support their dreams and take pride in their achievements. Isn’t that what every father wants for his child?

Co-authored by Rajiv Shah, Administrator for the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and Anthony Lake, Executive Director of the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF).

Follow Anthony Lake on Twitter @UNICEF.
Follow Raj Shah on Twitter @rajshah.

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