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President of Global Health Advocates Addresses European Parliament on Child Mortality

This post originally appeared on the blog of Global Health Advocates France.

On 20 September 2013, Simon Wright, President of Global Health Advocates, was invited at the European Parliament to address the Social Affairs Committee of the Africa, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP)-European Union Joint Parliamentary Assembly (JPA) on the issue of child mortality. Mr Wright presented the latest data on the issue highlighting the substantial progress achieved since 1990. While the number of births increased, all regions, with the sole exception of Sub-Saharan Africa, halved child mortality from the 1990 levels; a drop of 6 million child deaths that accounts for 17.000 fewer children dying every day.

In spite of overall progress, 18.000 children continue to die every day. Newborn mortality (death occurring during the first 20 days of life) remains high and its decline is slower than total under-5 mortality. “With current trends, many countries, especially in Western Africa, will not be able to reach Millennium Development Goal 4 by 2015” Mr Wright said. Moreover, “equity and sustainability of progresses within countries remain important challenges”, he added.

Mr Wright presented the country cases of Ethiopia and Niger. “Both countries represent successful example of how an integrated and universal approach is crucial to reduce child mortality” Mr Wright said. Ethiopia, which will host the next ACP-EU Joint Parliamentary Assembly in November, trained around 36.000 health workers and deployed them in around 15.000 health posts reaching out to communities in rural areas. Ethiopia has also integrated access to immunisation, infectious diseases, prevention and treatment, family planning and nutrition interventions and coordinated this with policies in other key sectors, such as agriculture and education. “It is thanks to these efforts that Ethiopia recently reached MDG 4” Mr Wright stressed.

Furthermore, important commitments made by the EU institutions ahead of the G8 Summit last June (€410 million pledge on direct nutrition interventions in 2014-2020) could positively impact child mortality in partner countries.  The Agenda for Change, which guides European development policies, commits the EU Institutions to devote 20% of their external aid to social inclusion and human development, with a particular focus on health, education and social protection. “The role of ACP Members of Parliament is key to ensure that these commitments are fulfilled” Mr Wright said. He also suggested the development of a report on scaling up child health interventions in ACP countries within the remit of the Social Affairs Committee.

The presentation was followed by a debate with questions from the Gambia, Niger, Zambia, Madagascar, Sudan, Burundi and Tanzania, all very eager to discuss the progresses and challenges of child health in their own countries. The co-chair of the Committee from Tanzania observed “Sub-Saharan Africa has now achieved the level of child mortality that Europe had in 1970”. In this context, the discussion of the post-2015 agenda offers a great opportunity for the development of ambitious targets towards a scaled up response to child mortality.

To view Simon Wright’s presentation click here.