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The “African Leadership for Child Survival – A Promise Renewed” summit was held in Addis Ababa from 16th to 18th January 2013.
The summit focused on scientific evidences for high impact and behavior change interventions and approaches that can accelerate progress in maternal, newborn and child health, advance in achieving the national Millennium Development Goal (MDG) for child survival, as well as galvanizing momentum and resources for country-led national Child Action Plans.
The Ministers of Health from 54 African countries along with the Ethiopian former Minister of Health and currently Minister of Foreign Affairs, Tedros Adhanom, attended the summit that was held at the African Union Conference center.
The conference follows last year’s ‘Call to Action for Child Survival’ conference, which was convened with the collaboration of the governments of Ethiopia, India and the United States along with UNICEF, and launched a global roadmap to end preventable deaths of children under five.
Globally, the number of deaths of children under the age of five decreased from nearly 12 million in 1990 to an estimated 6.9 million in 2011. This means about 14,000 fewer children die each day than they did two decades ago. Still, almost 19,000 children under the age of five die every day.
“The African Continent has made tremendous progress and has taken great strides in advancing health status and health care in the past decades. However, progress has been uneven. Countries affected by conflict and chronic emergencies face additional challenges and, in some cases delays, to Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) achievement,” stated Tedros Adhanom, Minister of foreign Affairs.
Ethiopia’s Minister of Health Kesetebirhan Admasu, who also attended the meeting, stated that the World is at a crucial juncture in its final sprint towards the 2015 Millennium Development Goals and the 2035 vision of ending preventable child deaths. Much will depend on country-level leadership and action on child survival. “I strongly believe we can only accelerate our progress if we renew our commitments and live up to providing increased, sustained and more harmonized leadership and support,” he said.
Reports show that the African Continent shares a significant global burden of newborn, child and maternal deaths. Of the 3.5 million such deaths per year in Africa, more than 1 million are newborns. But some African countries, such as Libya, Mauritius and Tunisia have already reduced their ‘under-5’ mortality rates to below 20 per 1,000 live births.
“I can assure you of Ethiopia’s commitment to the provision of the necessary leadership to significantly decrease maternal and infant mortalities. Through determined efforts, an investment in financial and human resources, as well as progressive policies and unique community mobilization efforts, Ethiopia has and will continue to expand its health care system to reach under-served communities, especially women, children, and young people in rural areas,” Tedros stated.
Kesetebirhan stated that Ethiopia’s Health Extension Workers are locally recruited young women, high school graduates with an additional year of intensive training in the delivery of a package of key health promotion and disease prevention interventions. As women, they are more accessible to and trusted by local women, and especially mothers, who are the primary beneficiaries of their services. Health Extension Workers have been actively reaching out to women and their children at the community level, teaching them about family planning, closely following up on pregnant mothers and those with newborns, and young children in addition to educating families about healthy living.
Committing to “African Leadership to Child Survival: A Promise Renewed’ is the response and action that emerged from the global ‘Call to Action for Child Survival’ forum in Washington D.C in June 2012. Since then, more than 165 governments and hundreds of civil society organizations, private sector companies and many more, have pledged to increase efforts in aiding child survival and improve maternal health by focusing and channeling greater effort on reaching the most disadvantaged and hard-to-reach children in every country.