Ending preventable child and maternal deaths in a generation

Bread for the World’s 2016 Offering of Letters is focused on ending preventable maternal, newborn, and child deaths. Simone D. McCourtie/World Bank.

Editor’s note: This post is part of a weekly, year-long series called the Nourishing Effect. It explores how hunger affects health through the lens of the 2016 Hunger Report. The report is an annual publication of Bread for the World Institute.

By Beth Ann Saracco

In 2012, the international community came together for the Child Survival Call to Action: A Promise Renewed, pledging to end preventable child deaths by 2035, along with advancing new interventions proven to promote child and maternal survival. For its part, the U.S. government has named ending preventable maternal, newborn, and child deaths within a generation (by 2035) a national priority.

In 2014, the U.S. government launched Acting on the Call: Ending Preventable Child and Maternal Deaths, an ambitious but achievable plan to save the lives of 15 million children and 600,000 women in 24 countries by 2020. The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) announced $600 million in awards with more than 26 partners including Coca-Cola, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the American Academy of Pediatrics, and Johnson & Johnson.

The U.S. government is also partnering with the governments of the 24 countries prioritized by Acting on the Call. Currently, 13 countries, all in Africa, have developed national strategies that include countrywide targets and scorecards to measure and track progress. In the last two years alone, the countries have collectively achieved an 8 percent reduction in under-5 mortality, saving 500,000 lives.

In 2015, the Reach Every Mother and Child Act, bipartisan legislation that would authorize a U.S. government strategy to better coordinate efforts to end preventable maternal, newborn, and child deaths by 2035, was introduced in the Senate.

Additionally, the legislation seeks to accelerate progress toward self-sustainability in partner countries, mentioning supporting country-led development and emphasizing the importance of public-private financing mechanisms as ways to do this. Bread for the World’s 2016 Offering of Letters will mobilize Bread for the World members and churches across the country to urge their representatives in Congress to end preventable maternal, newborn, and child mortality.

Acting on the Call is an important sign of political commitment from the U.S. government, and a strategy like that described in the Reach Every Mother and Child Act would help ensure that U.S. efforts are as effective as possible. Combined with what has been achieved by partner governments (such as the 8 percent decrease in child mortality mentioned above and many other “success stories” in countries ranging from Bangladesh to Ghana) and the inclusion of these objectives in the SDGs, U.S. efforts should generate powerful momentum toward the day, just 20 years from now, when all preventable maternal/child deaths are actually prevented.

Before joining World Vision, Beth Ann Saracco was a senior international policy analyst at Bread for the World.

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