Fighting for the World's Children in Washington

September 20, 2013
© Aarti Singh Martin Rendón, the U.S. Fund's Vice-President for Public Policy and Advocacy, speaks about progress in child mortality at the Congressional briefing in Washington, D.C. © Aarti Singh

The United States is one of 176 countries that signed a pledge last year to work to end preventable child deaths in a generation — in effect getting to ZERO by 2035. To keep the spotlight focused on the U.S. government's commitment, the U.S. Fund for UNICEF sponsored a briefing in Washington D.C. on September 12 to update Capitol Hill about the latest child survival estimates. Our hosts were Rep. Betty McCollum (D-MN) and Rep. Dave Reichert (R-WA) and the Congressional Global Health Caucus. UNICEF USA spoke with Martin Rendón, the U.S. Fund's Vice-President for Public Policy and Advocacy, who organized the briefing in the Gold Room of the Rayburn House Office Building. Tell us a bit about the briefing. Martin Rendón: Tessa Wardlaw, from UNICEF's Data & Analytics section, was our principal speaker. She did a superb job of walking everyone through the data. And looking at the estimates glass half full, the progress is stunning. A drop in annual under-five deaths from 12.6 million in 1990 to 6.6 million in 2012. Or to put it another way, 90 million children's lives saved since 1990 — more than the population of Germany. And looking at the estimates glass half empty? Rendón: Since 1990, 216 million children have died before their fifth birthday — more than the population of Brazil. 18,000 children under five still die every day, mostly from preventable causes such as pneumonia, diarrhea or malaria. How can we move forward? Rendón: More attention to ending preventable child deaths in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia, which together account for 4 out of 5 under-five deaths globally. The United States has a huge role to play. Getting to ZERO must be made a priority of our foreign policy. You've given these briefings before. What was different this year? Rendón: This year's briefing was particularly timely. Hill aides and child survival advocates in Washington were very keen to learn how the global effort is progressing. They saw that appropriations for child survival and UNICEF are achieving measurable positive results. How can people help get the United States to honor its 2012 pledge? Rendón: Ask the President to implement the commitment the United States made last year by securing increased funding for the programs and organizations that directly impact global child survival, especially USAID's maternal and child health account and the U.S. contribution to UNICEF. Tell the president you stand with UNICEF. Remind President Obama of his commitment to end preventable child deaths.