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Child Survival

We don’t like this work because it is hard and we feel very tired when picking tea, but we know how to pick tea because it helps us . . . to get food, money for paying school fees and also clothes and other things, and also we want to stop it.

— Betty, 13, Kenya

The most vulnerable victims of poverty are the world’s children.

Nearly 28,000 children die every day — more than 10 million per year — most from preventable diseases and malnutrition. Yet, the handful of preventable diseases that kill the majority of these children can be treated and prevented at very little cost. Measles can be prevented with a vaccine costing just 26 cents. Diarrheal disease, which results from poor sanitation and unsafe drinking water, can be treated with pennies’ worth of oral rehydration salts. Malaria kills nearly one million children each year, despite the fact that treatment for acute malaria costs just pennies.

In addition, diseases like AIDS and TB can devastate the lives of children by killing or compromising the health of their parents. It is estimated that AIDS has orphaned 13 million children. Even if a parent becomes ill but does not die, as might happen with TB, children experience even greater poverty as income falls and assets are sold to help replace lost income or to pay for medical care. Children are at risk of malnutrition, and its long-term ill effects, as their family’s household budget falls. They may be taken out of school to help at home, or may begin working to supplement their family’s income. In India, it is estimated that over 300,000 children leave school each year because their parents are infected with TB.

We must do better for the world’s children. In 1990, RESULTS Educational Fund was instrumental in generating pressure for world leaders to attend World Summit for Children. Thousands of volunteers around the world held candlelight vigils that brought together some 1 million people and focused media attention on the plight of the world’s children and the opportunity of the Summit.

At that Summit, the world’s leaders made pledges designed to dramatically improve the living conditions of children around the world. They included:

  • Reducing infant and under-5 child death rates by one-third;
  • Halving malnutrition for children under 5; and
  • Ensuring universal access to basic education.

In 1985, thanks in part to the efforts of RESULTS, Congress began to set money aside specifically for child survival activities. In 1995, Congress protected these funds by created a special account in the foreign aid budget to prioritize funding for child survival and other health programs. Congress has continued to prioritize and expand this account.

As the amount of child survival funding has increased, global child death rates have fallen. The number of children dying from largely preventable causes has fallen from 40,000 per day in 1990 to less than 30,000 per day in 2000. We have made progress.

However, we have far to go. When the United Nations convened a Special Session on children in May 2002 to follow up on the goals set at the World Summit for Children, none of the goals had been met.

The United States, working with global partners, must do everything we can to create a world that works for all children and meet the goals of the World Summit for Children. Despite the fact that Child Survival programs are a highly successful and cost-effective use of aid to developing countries, funding remains inadequate. Rates of immunization in developing countries against vaccine-preventable diseases have fallen from their peak of about 85 percent. Effective strategies such as oral rehydration therapy (ORT) to prevent death from diarrheal dehydration remain underutilized.

Carol Bellamy, executive director of the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), has said, “The lives of children and women are the truest indicators of the strength of communities and nations.”

RESULTS continues to lobby the U.S. Congress to ensure that precious child survival resources within the Child Survival and Health Account in our annual foreign aid spending bill are protected and expanded, including funding for UNICEF, micronutrient programs, and vitamin A supplementation. RESULTS Educational Fund tracks child survival programs including those funded by the Child Survival and Health Account in order to ensure that the funds are being spent on effective solutions for children, including immunizations, treatment of acute pneumonia, oral rehydration therapy, vitamin A supplementation, salt iodization, and immunizations that reach the poorest. We will continue to draw public attention to, and fight for, the survival of the world’s most vulnerable — our children.

RESULTS is a member of the U.S. Coalition for Child Survival, a collaboration of organizations and individuals dedicated to improving the survival and healthy development of the worlds children, through increased public and private funding for child survival, sharing best practices between organizations in the field, and coordinating efforts to eliminate and eradicate diseases that kill children.