The following blog first appeared on The Huffington Post.
Can the sound of a child’s heartbeat inspire the world to save children’s lives? Can it inspire you? Children’s heartbeats recorded in Malawi and Guatemala inspired the band OneRepublic to write a song with a beat like no other. If “Feel Again” grabs you enough to download it, you can help save children’s lives.
The song provides the soundtrack to Save the Children’s new Every Beat Matters campaign. The aim is to raise awareness about the millions of children around the world who die needlessly before their 5thbirthday, and what can be done to save them. The timing is right for this campaign launch, and not just because it’s Infant Mortality Awareness month. Yesterday, the United Nations released their latest child mortality estimates, which show — for the first time — that child deaths have fallen below 7 million per year. While this figure is still far too high, it reflects the tremendous progress the world has made in reducing preventable child deaths. We can and must now finish the job.
Not long ago twice as many children died every year. Since 1990, child deaths have declined by an impressive 40 percent. That’s thanks to high-impact solutions like vaccines, oral rehydration therapy to treat diarrhea and improved nutrition in the first 1,000 days of life. Increased contraceptive use has also played a big role in many countries, especially in Asia. By reducing unintended pregnancies and increasing the spacing between pregnancies, the risk of both maternal and child deaths have gone down.
But these solutions still aren’t reaching all the children and mothers who need them. Many children still don’t get vaccines or timely treatment of life-threatening illnesses such as malaria, diarrhea and pneumonia. And many newborn babies, especially those in need, don’t get the skilled delivery and basic care at birth that could prevent 20-60 percent of deaths in the first month of life.
This is where you come in. By downloading a song that benefits our Every Beat Matters campaign, or writing to Congress, or sharing a video with friends to get them involved in the cause, expanding lifesaving care for children is just a few clicks away.
The progress on child survival has never been more hopeful. In June of this year, the U.S. government, along with India and Ethiopia, convened a high-level forum that brought together hundreds of stakeholders from the public and private sectors to shoot for a lofty, yet attainable goal: ending preventable child deaths within a generation. The U.N. report released today gives welcome news that we are gaining ground in some countries, but shows that sub-Saharan Africa and south Asia still have a long way to go. More than 80 percent of child deaths now occur in those regions. The new report also shows that progress for older children is too often leaving newborn babies behind. Deaths in the first month of life now make up 43 percent of all deaths before age five. That’s up from 36 percent in 1990.
Proven solutions — such as low-cost treatment for infection and teaching moms to wrap their premature babies skin to skin to keep them warm and encourage breastfeeding–could save millions more lives a year. But the reality is, without continued public support, governments, including our own, may not muster the sustained political will to ensure these solutions reach all the babies and children who need them.
We already have the cost-effective tools to save these lives. Now we must deliver them. The new U.N. report lists the leading causes of child death as pneumonia, premature birth, diarrhea, childbirth complications and malaria. The most important thing that could effectively address all of these is a greater emphasis on training and supporting frontline health workers, such as midwives and community health workers. These workers are the first line of defense for children and families and we need to train and deploy at least one million more.
The United States has been a leader in supporting developing countries that have dramatically reduced child mortality by building their health workforce. Despite budget woes in Washington, everyone can help make sure these investments — not only in frontline health workers, but also in things like nutrition — continue. I invite you to meet some amazing frontline health workers at www.EveryBeatMatters.org, hear the music inspired by children they’ve kept healthy and show your support for the lifesaving work they do every day. It just takes a click or two.