Senator Bill Frist, MD and Jenny Dyer, PhD
Five years ago, Save the Children asked me to chair their Newborn and Child Survival Campaign. In 1990, over 12 million kids were dying every year; that is, over 33,000 children were dying every single day from preventable, treatable disease.
Today, the statistics have changed. We have almost cut that number in half. The goal for Millennium Development Goal #4 to reduce child mortality by 2/3 is within our grasp. The numbers show that almost 6.6 million children die per year, or about 18,000 children per day. The good news is that we are making progress.
What are the keys to this progress? With over 40% of the deaths under 5 being attributed to newborn or infant mortality, addressing the need for a skilled birth attendant, keeping the baby warm and dry at birth, and encouraging breastfeeding goes a long way. After the first year, simple interventions such as vaccines and ORT (oral rehydration therapy) combat the number #1 and #2 killers of children in developing nations: pneumonia and diarrhea. Bed nets, nutrition, clean water, and sanitation access have also been key interventions to combat child mortality.
Photo from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation website.