Improvements in child health are a major focus of the health-related Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). Targets set for 2015 are rapidly approaching, and, much remains to be done to achieve reductions in child mortality. This week’s Child Survival Call to Action in Washington, DC (June 14-15) will address progress achieved and challenges ahead (www.apromiserenewed.org). International NGOs, representatives of US Government global health programs, and ministers of health from around the world will gather to discuss strategies to advance child survival goals.
CDC’s global health programs have contributed significantly to accomplishments related to child survival. The breadth and depth of CDC’s expertise in child health stems from both its domestic and global work. With CDC offices in over 40 countries, our strong partnerships with ministries of health are critical to achieve goals associated with child health.
As a major implementer of the President’s Emergency Program for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), CDC’s global efforts have helped change the course of the worldwide HIV/AIDS epidemic (affecting an estimated 34 million people). Through PEPFAR CDC has supported life-saving treatment for 3.9 million people worldwide. These efforts have had dramatic impact on child health. Through distribution of antivirals to HIV+ pregnant women, in 2011, an estimated 200,000 infant HIV infections were averted.
CDC’s global immunization work improves child health around the world and saves lives. Our agency works with the Red Cross, UNICEF, the UN Foundation, and the World Health Organization (WHO) on the Measles Initiative, launched in 2001. The initiative has supported the delivery of more than 1 billion doses of measles vaccine and helped raise measles vaccination coverage to 85% globally. As a result, worldwide measles deaths have been reduced by 74%. These efforts have contributed significantly to a reduction in overall child mortality (MDG 4), and account for an estimated 23% of the overall decline in child deaths worldwide from 2000-2010.
CDC’s longstanding malaria research activities have helped to inform the development and evaluation of the four key malaria prevention and treatment interventions used by global malaria programs today. Since 2006, through the President’s Malaria Initiative (PMI), CDC has contributed to efforts that distributed about 90 million treated bednets, more than 100 million malaria treatments, and 14 million doses of treatment for malaria prevention in pregnant women. In 2011, 28 million people were protected through indoor residual spraying. This massive scale-up has helped reduce childhood death rates by as much as 50% in some PMI focus countries.
Diarrheal diseases, often caused by unsafe drinking water, poor sanitation and inadequate hygiene, are the second leading killer of children under 5 years old. Methods for treating water in households, schools, and clinics, such as the safe water system, developed by CDC and WHO/PAHO and supported by USAID, offer families, teachers, and healthcare providers the tools to clean and safely store their own drinking water, even when the source is contaminated. This approach, while not a substitute for access to improved and safe drinking water sources, has been shown to reduce rates of diarrheal illness in children by 50% when used as a temporizing measure, and has been adopted by millions of families in over 30 countries since 1998.
These are just a few of CDC’s global health programs and partnerships that have improved the lives of children around the world, and we are dedicated to meeting the remaining challenges. Although mother-to-child transmission of HIV has been virtually eliminated in the developed world, in 2010, approximately 390,000 children around the world were born with HIV. In that same year preventable and treatable diarrheal diseases claimed the lives of over 800,000 children under 5 years old and an estimated 655,000 deaths were caused by malaria, mostly among African children. Each year around the world, 2.4 million children die from vaccine-preventable diseases.
With the deadline for achieving MDG targets rapidly approaching there is currently an enormous global effort to assist countries that are lagging behind. CDC is working alongside our international partners and our US Government sister agencies to achieve these goals. Together we can improve the lives of millions of children and our own futures. The Child Survival Call to Action is an opportunity for all of us to reflect on the progress we have made and way forward.