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Every Child Deserves a Fifth Birthday

Article by Mark R. Dybul April 25, 2012 //   6 minute read

This article originally appeared on TheHill.com When it comes to promoting global health, the American people have much to celebrate and be proud of. With strong bipartisan support, the US government has not only committed many billions of dollars and saved many millions of lives, it has changed the way the world approaches foreign aid. President Bush built on the work of his predecessors but radically changed the landscape. He knew the character of the American people to be fundamentally compassionate, generous and committed to service. But he insisted that taxpayer dollars be held to high standards of transparency and accountability and demanded results. That revolutionary conceptual framework led to historic US initiatives including the Millennium Challenge Corporation; the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief - the largest international initiative in history dedicated to a single disease; the President's Malaria Initiative; the African and International Education Initiatives; the Women's Justice and Empowerment Initiative; the Neglected Tropical Diseases Initiative and others that definitively changed how the US serves its global sisters and brothers. At the same time, these solid investments in saving and lifting up lives have changed how people around the world view America and Americans - people know what you stand for when you stand with them - and has, therefore, made us more secure.  They have also led a global change in foreign aid focused on results and accountability. In the bipartisan tradition on global health and development, President Obama has continued investing in global health to save lives and strengthen communities. He, and Secretary Clinton, have called for an AIDS-free generation, using scientific advances of the past few years to expand on the HIV-free generation of the Bush Administration. The Obama Administration also continues to expand and evolve the conceptual framework to increase the return on investment the US taxpayers make for a healthier, more secure world. Today another chapter is being written. The U.S. Government is catalyzing governments and partners around the world to end preventable child deaths. This is not a new initiative, but one that capitalizes on U.S. leadership in child health and a global narrative that is very promising. In 1990, more than 10 million children under 5 died every year. In 2010, 7.6 million died. That's significant progress that has accelerated every decade. But we are far from done.  It is totally unacceptable that more than 7 million kids are still dying each year from easily preventable and treatable conditions. Children under five are dying because too many still lack adequate nutrition, access to a bed net to protect them from malaria or inexpensive medication to treat them if the get it, access to routine immunization and because their moms are dying unnecessarily - leaving them to be up to 10 times more likely to die. Not enough HIV-positive mothers have access to treatment to avoid transmitting HIV to their babies and to keeping themselves healthy. The solutions are simple - and they are low cost and highly efficient. Preventing these deaths is achievable, is a good investment and is a moral requirement. At a "Call to Action" in June, the governments of the United States, India and Ethiopia, together with UNICEF, are mobilizing the world. The message is that all governments and citizens are responsible for the health of the world's children. Global leaders will agree on sharpened country strategies and targeted investments in lifesaving interventions over the next two decades. The goal is to mobilize political will, generating consensus for action that transparently holds the world to account. To complement this effort, today the U.S. Agency for International Development's Administrator, Dr. Raj Shah, launched an awareness-raising campaign called "Every Child Deserves a 5th Birthday".  Everyone can engage in this important effort by sharing their fifth birthday or Age 5 photo at www.5thBDay.usaid.gov and through social media.  The goal is to remind us all that it is our responsibility to end the needless death of millions of children - and that working together, the end of preventable child death is in sight. It's out of the box thinking that you don't normally see from government.  There are already 40 partners signed on including many faith-based organizations. Before even getting to June's Call to Action, the child health community is rallying to engage citizens in innovative ways to create a movement that will save millions of lives. One thing every American can agree on is this:  every child deserves a fifth birthday.   This article was written by Ambassador Mark Dybul, a distinguished scholar at the O'Neill Institute for Global and National Health Law, a Georgetown University and Inaugural Global Health Fellow at the George W. Bush Institute.  He was the US Global AIDS Coordinator from 2006 to 2009.