Last week, U.S. Senator Chris Coons (D-DE) convened a forum called â€śOpportunity Africa: 2013â€ť at Delaware State University in Dover, Delaware. The conference brought together interested citizens of Delaware with individuals from government and the private sector who work on a range of issues related to Africa. Topics included trade, business, security, geopolitics, international development and humanitarian issues.
Among his many responsibilities in the U.S. Senate, Senator Coons chairs the Senate Foreign Relations Committeeâ€™s African Affairs Subcommittee. From this position, Senator Coons promotes a bipartisan approach to improve U.S. relations with Africa and address both the challenges and the opportunities present in Africa today. Because of his strong interest in the well-being of children in Africa, the Senator included a workshop on child health, safety and survival. I was honored to participate on this panel.
The good news is that the number of child deaths in sub-Saharan Africa has dropped by 39% since 1990. But one in nine children in this part of the world still die before reaching the age of five. And 3.5 million children die every year of largely preventable causes throughout Africa.
At the Committing to Child Survival: A Promised Renewed conference held in Washington last year, over 165 countriesâ€”including the United Statesâ€”pledged to renew their efforts to reduce the deaths of children under five in all countries to 20 per 1,000 live births by 2035. Or, to put it another way: to end all preventable child deaths within a generation. This January, the Government of Ethiopia convened the African Leadership for Child Survival meeting. At this three-day conference, African Ministers of Health and global experts met to accelerate reductions in preventable child deaths. Health practitioners, religious groups, non-governmental organizations and governments are all working with a heightened sense of purpose.
The momentum to save children that is coming from Africa is notable. As indicated at the Ethiopia meeting, Africa seeks partners and support in the effort to get to ZERO preventable child deaths. Please take a moment to encourage our Senators and Representatives to support policies and funding for the programs and organizations that directly impact global child survival, especially USAID’s maternal and child health account, and the U.S. contribution to UNICEF. And help put an end to children dying from preventable causes.