Finishing the job
At USAID's "Every Child Deserves a 5th Birthday" briefing, USAID Administrator Raj Shah proudly displays a photo of one of his little ones, who had just graduated from her play group.
I've always had a soft spot for revolutionary people and ideas, so it's not surprising that my favorite part of USAID's Every Child Deserves a 5th Birthday briefing was a nod to the work of Jim Grant (Executive Director of UNICEF from 1980-1995) and his commitment to child health that saved countless lives. It reminded me that child health efforts in which I play a small role tell a story that's been decades in the making.
Like the beginning of all revolutionary biographies, when Jim Grant articulated his vision to tackle preventable child deaths with simple solutions, like ORS and breastfeeding promotion, people told him it couldn't be done. But he would not be swayed. “Imagine if 120 jumbo jets filled with children crashed today,” he said. Worldwide child mortality numbers conveyed a “silent emergency,” but one he knew could be solved with simple solutions.
In the end, his commitment saved the lives of 25 million children. The progress has been remarkable, but of course, the story can't be over yet. Children in poor countries are still more than twice as likely to die from preventable causes; for example, 80% of deaths from diarrhea occur in Africa and Southeast Asia. The children who need these simple solutions most are counting on us to finish what Grant started. Between efforts that laid the foundation and new technologies at our disposal, like rotavirus vaccines, we are better positioned to finish the job now than at any other moment in history.
With the tools and the know-how, all we need is the political will. And nothing ignites political will like the revolutionary spark of many passionate voices. You can join the movement by uploading your 5th birthday photo on USAID's website and making a wish for the children of the world. By working together, we can help ensure that this story has a happy ending. What could be happier than more 5th birthdays?
-- Hope Randall, Child Health Communications Associate for defeatDD at PATH. You can find her 5th birthday photo here.
For more information:
-- Video: Diarrhea is the second leading killer of children worldwide. To defeat it, we need to talk about it!