Malaria is an incredibly deadly, pervasive disease. It kills between 750,000 to 1.2 million people every year, mostly children and pregnant women.
When you really see it at the local level, though, its real impact becomes clear. In my host family alone every single child had malaria last year at least once, some three or four times. It exacts an extraordinarily heavy toll on the health, productivity, and finances of the village, and nearly every family has lost children to the disease.
Prevention work can have incredibly positive effect on the well being of these families. Simple interventions like bed nets, indoor residual spraying and prompt treatment can save huge amounts of money, time and ultimately lives.
More than 7 million children will die this year before they reach their 5th birthday. That number is equivalent to the entire population of New York City. And, even more disturbing, most of these children will die from preventable causes.
At the same time, as a global community, we have made staggering progress in the reduction of child mortality. Over the last 50 years, child mortality has been reduced by 70%. This result is largely due to high-impact tools and interventions for child survival, notably new vaccines and more community health workers.
However, we must not let this progress hide the reality that more than 7 million children are at risk every year. In rich and poor countries alike, the poorest and most disadvantaged children continue to miss out on lifesaving, affordable interventions.
The tremendous declines in child mortality in Rwanda, (over 50%), and the 28% decline in both Tanzania and Ethiopia prove that these simple, cost-effective interventions can save lives. Now is the time for every nation to build on this proven success.
All governments and citizens are responsible for the survival of their most vulnerable children. Stakeholders in every country – from the government to civil society to the faith community to the private sector – are responsible for the survival of the world’s children. Their existing commitments as well as future commitments must be fulfilled.
Ending preventable child deaths is possible, if we all work together.