Progress for children
Letter from PMNCH Director Dr Flavia Bustreo
24 MAY 2010 | Geneva - This month brings more good news for women and children around the world.
As WHO's Director-General Margaret Chan noted in her opening address at last week's World Health Assembly, the world is now making important progress in reducing the number of child deaths. After six decades of little progress in reducing under-five mortality to below 10 million, this past decade has seen a steady decline in child deaths.
In this week's Lancet, Dr. Christopher Murray and colleagues at the University of Washington put forward more evidence of this downward trend. Indeed, they suggest progress is even faster than was previously estimated, and acceleration of progress has happened in several sub-Saharan countries. Meanwhile, a recent report in the Lancet from Dr Robert Black and colleagues on behalf of the Child Health Epidemiology Reference Group (CHERG) gives an important boost to country-based planning and programming by identifying country-specific causes of death for children under five, helping to focus efforts to achieving MDG 4.
There are simple proven interventions to prevent these deaths, including vaccines, antibiotics and better nutrition. We urgently need to deploy these life-saving solutions to ensure that there is continued positive progress in reducing preventable child deaths.
We're making progress, but it is not fast enough. The world has waited far too long to prioritize the lives of women and children. This is why PMNCH stands in firm support of the UN Secretary General's new Joint Action Plan for Healthy Women and Healthy Children, to be launched at the MDG Summit in September. The plan will generate new policy, financial and delivery commitments, and will enable many more countries to reduce maternal, newborn and child deaths.
The recent focus on mortality estimates also underscores that for many countries we rely on modelling and estimation, based on few true data points, and stresses the importance of counting every life and every death. According to UNICEF, more than 40% of all births go unrecorded. Thousands of women are also dying without a trace. This has to stop.
We need to invest in quality, real-time health information, including vital registration systems. Every women and child has the right to be recognized. And until we really know how many babies are born and how many women and children are dying, countries’ efforts to plan and invest in maternal, newborn and child health will continue to be held back.
Together, we must invest in our common future. To make every mother and child count, we need to count every mother and child.