In the last 20 years the world has saved over 50 million children’s lives and reduced maternal mortality by one third. The American people and their partners can feel very proud of their contributions to these extraordinary achievements. With prospects for ending preventable child and maternal deaths, an AIDS-free generation, and the foundations for universal health coverage, future generations will look back at this period as a turning point in the history of global health.

Ariel Pablos-Méndez as a small child. Photo: USAID

Today, USAID Administrator Dr. Rajiv Shah will launch the Every Child Deserves a 5th Birthday campaign to educate Americans on the disparity in child survival rates and make them more aware of our incredible capacity to save children’s lives. We also hope to rally the child survival community – bringing together the various partnerships and initiatives that are the backbone of child survival – to mobilize the world toward the goal of ending preventable child deaths.

While global under-five mortality has been declining, about 7 million children under the age of five still die annually. Roughly 40 percent of these deahs occur in the first month of life, among highly vulnerable newborns. Many children, at greatest risk of dying before their fifth birthday live in remove villages or in underserved urban areas. USAID focuses its work on 24 countries that account for more than 70 percent of child deaths. Nearly half of all child deaths occur in just five of these countries: India, Nigeria, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Pakistan, and Ethiopia.

USAID focuses on saving lives at birth and ending preventable child deaths. Family planning and birth spacing for the mother, providing prophylaxis and treatment for malaria, tuberculosis, and HIV to mothers who have experienced the impact of these diseases, and safe labor and delivery will all enhance the health of children. Advancements in vaccines, better management of chronic conditions affecting the mother and child, such as malnutrition and HIV, and improvements in environmental factors such as poor sanitation will further accelerate needed progress in child mortality. To protect children in the first five years of life, USAID will increasingly rely on low-cost, easy-to-use interventions that achieve highest impact by preventing and treating the leading causes of child death: pneumonia, diarrhea, prematurity, asphyxia, malaria, and newborn sepsis. Strengthening health systems will save lives and secure development gains by ensuring access for all to appropriate health services at an affordable cost.

USAID has recently released its Global Health Strategic Framework, which sets the direction of the global health sector for FY 2012-2016. It incorporates the principles of the Global Health Initiative (GHI), which form the foundation of our work, is set within USAID’s core development mission and priorities, and promotes an inclusive and integrated approach to global health across the U.S. Government for a more effective and efficient approach to sustainable global health outcomes.