America’s legacy in child survival is a proud one: With strong bipartisan support, U.S. support of global health has saved many millions of lives. 

Nearly 30 years ago, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), with the support of the U.S. Congress, launched a “child survival revolution” aimed at reducing the number of deaths among young children in developing countries.  At the time, an estimated 15 million children under age 5 in the developing world died from common preventable diseases each year.  Without reduced rates of mortality, the number of deaths today would be about 17 million each year. Instead, the latest estimates indicate that there are fewer than 7 million child deaths globally, still far too high but clearly indicating great progress.

Thirty years ago 46,000 children died every single day. Today that number is less than 19,000.

But a child dying anywhere in the world is a tragic loss and undermines peace and stability.  This year, the United States co-hosted a Child Survival Call to Action that challenged the world to reduce child mortality to below 20 child deaths per 1,000 live births in every country by 2035. Assuming countries already on track continue to make progress at their current rates, achieving this target will save an additional 5.6 million children’s lives every year. That means 50 million more children will survive and thrive.

Past USAID investments led to innovations that now reach millions, saving lives throughout the developing world.

For decades, USAID has played a vital role in the development and delivery of low cost, high impact health interventions that can reach children in poor countries to prevent or treat the most important causes of child death – pneumonia, neonatal conditions, diarrhea, and malaria.  Innovations include safe injection technologies like auto-disable syringes and vaccine vial monitors, a diagnostic test for anemia and for vitamin A deficiency, safe birth kits and other products that are now used in countries throughout the developing world.

Helping children reach their fifth birthdays and beyond has brought about happier parents, smaller, more prosperous households, and children with much brighter futures.

Improving child survival brings a demographic dividend through fertility declines, reduced mortality, and increased economic productivity Reduction in child mortality can result in billions of dollars in direct economic savings –life-saving vaccines alone could save 6.4 million lives and $231billion in lost productivity by 2020.