child survival

5thBDay badge in white background.5thBDay badge in white background.

Every child deserves a fifth birthday. It seems simple enough. But for many children in the world — especially in countries with the highest burden of child mortality, such as India, Nigeria, Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Pakistan and Ethiopia — preventable deaths will claim their lives, before they reach the age of five.

Today, USAID launched an ongoing child survival awareness campaign, called, “Every Child Deserves a 5th Birthday.”

The “5th Birthday” campaign kicked off with a briefing event at Kaiser Family Foundation, featuring USAID Administrator Dr. Rajiv Shah and other experts. Dr. Shah and colleagues stressed that reducing the burden of child mortality is critical to our future as a global community.

While the global community has made great strides reducing child mortality, inequality in child mortality remains: several regions and countries continue to shoulder the greatest burden and loss of life.

Godgift and his caregiver receiving educational supplies from the Executive Director of Synergycare Initiative. {Photo credit: Anayo Chike Charles/MSH.}Photo credit: Anayo Chike Charles/MSH.

Early one morning Mrs. Fred woke up and found a boy outside her house. Alarmed and curious, she asked him why he was there. Godgift, as he identified himself, told her that the continuous appearance of a snake where he lived forced him to abandon the place he called home, after numerous futile attempts to frighten it off with pepper. Highly disturbed, she arranged for him to eat in a nearby restaurant whenever he showed up by her house.

The boy, Godgift Henshaw, is 13 years old. Godgift's mother took him along when she left her husband and eloped with another man. When the burden of care got too heavy, she left Godgift with her mother in Agbia community, Bayelsa State, Nigeria. Godgift’s grandmother beat and neglected him. Most of the time he went without food and often slept outside the house. Finally, she labeled him a wizard and abandoned him, fleeing from their home.

The landlord evicted Godgift when there was no one to pay the rent. He took refuge in an uncompleted building in a nearby bush, completely at the mercy of the elements. Abandoned and stigmatized (following his identification as a wizard), he fed himself by doing odd jobs.

A child born in Ghana today will most likely receive a full schedule of immunizations, and her chances of surviving past the age of five are far better than they were a decade ago. Today Ghana boasts a coverage rate for infant vaccination of 90 percent and hasn’t seen an infant die of measles since 2003.

Ghana has been expanding primary health care by bringing services to people’s doorsteps since the 1980s, and since the early 2000s has done so in the context of a commitment to universal health coverage. The secret to its success in child immunization has been both integration and decentralization of health services: Government funding for all health activities is provided through a "common pot." District-level managers are responsible for local budgeting and service delivery. Local staff provide comprehensive rather than specialized care.

Ghana is one of a growing number of low- and middle-income countries demonstrating that strong performance in immunization can go hand-in-hand with the aspiration of universal health coverage, access for all to appropriate health services at an affordable cost.

Mobilizing communities in rural Benin to improve health.

The West African nation of Benin faces many challenges in achieving Millennium Development Goal 4---reducing child mortality. In the rural communities in Benin (91% of the population live in rural areas), access to health care and treatment is inadequate in relation to the vast need. Very few people have the appropriate skills and capacity to deliver care in these areas. The US Agency for International Development's (USAID) BASICS Benin project is increasing the capability of villages as far as 50 km away from health centers by training Community Health Workers (CHWs) to perform community case management of children five years-old and under.

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