Lives on the Line

By Save the Children

In the 5 days world leaders gather at the UN General Assembly, close to 100,000 children and 4,000 women will die unnecessarily.

We could be the generation that ends preventable child and maternal deaths, eradicates hunger and rids the world for good of the scandal of extreme poverty. But to do so will require a resolute focus on the hardest to reach and will only happen if we tackle the inequalities that are trapping the poorest and most marginalised people in poverty.

In 2000, world leaders came together to promise an end to the scandal of children dying from preventable causes like, malaria, pneumonia, diarrhoea and malnutrition and women dying from preventable causes in pregnancy or child birth. By signing up to the Millennium Declaration, the world made a pledge to cut the rate of children under 5 dying by two-thirds and the rate of women dying by three-quarters. We now have less than 1000 days left to meet MDGs 4 and 5. To make good on these promises we need to save an additional 3.5 million children’s lives and 200,000 women.

There has been real progress; Since 1990, the number of children and mothers dying has nearly halved. Many low-income, high-burden countries including Bangladesh and Ethiopia have already met the MDG 4 goal of reducing child mortality rates by two-thirds showing that government commitment to improve health systems and provide access to quality care can have a dramatic effect on reducing mortality rates.

But it is still not enough- and too many countries will fail to meet their target on child and maternal survival by the 2015 deadline. 18,000 children still die every day, mostly from preventable causes- like malaria, pneumonia, and diarrhoea and 800 women die from preventable causes related to pregnancy and childbirth.

Insufficient investments by governments and donors in maternal and newborn care, major gaps in the provision of health care services, poor nutrition and a global shortage of health workers including 350,000 trained midwives worldwide are some of the key challenges slowing progress.

We know what needs to be done to save the lives of these mothers and babies. Millions more lives can be saved each year if we invest in proven solutions and tackle some of the underlying causes of child and maternal deaths such as malnutrition which contributes to nearly half of all child deaths each year.

The leaders gathering at the UN this September can do something about this. Governments must take the bold steps to ensure that every child and pregnant woman is within reach of a health worker and that there is universal access to quality needed services including newborn care, immunisation, and proper nutrition.

The world needs to keep its eye on the ball in the last stretch to 2015 in order to save these 3.7 million lives on the line. That is why we need to aim higher by resolving now to end preventable Child deaths for good and ensure women and children are at the heart of the Post 2015 development framework.

With enough determination and commitment it can be done.