Accelerating Reductions in Child Mortality: Millennium Development Goal 4
Over the years as I worked abroad with the United Nations, I have had to endure the horrors of infant deaths in countries around the globe that I have been working in. Rarely was there integrated management to prevent the cause of child mortality in the existing health systems of these countries. In fact, the health systems were rarely well supported, especially outside of the capital cities.
Vaccinations and immunizations are incredible low cost interventions that have been responsible for major declines in the number of infant deaths since 2001. They are great tools against measles, but also polio, tuberculosis and tetanus. It is imperative that disease-specific interventions aim to strengthen health systems and not create parallel structures. The objective of such targeted interventions must be to support broader, sustainable health systems. This involves integrating the interventions in such a way that they ensure health systems are better funded, are staffed by qualified personnel and have adequate transport facilities and infrastructure.
A colleague who works for a major health institute stressed to me recently how important it is to get developing countries to ‘put some skin’ in the game when it comes to budgeting for health care. The importance of getting local communities involved in their own development planning, implementation and evaluation of national health strategies is critical for country ownership and buy-in.
On a global scale, poverty continues to exert tremendous influence slowing down the pace of development; it is common knowledge that those living in poorer conditions suffer disproportionately more from disasters and disease. Human resource challenges, particularly in health services, are a serious global concern. Not only are countries not training enough health workers, but many highly-trained health workers are emigrating to meet the demands in industrialized countries. In short, the global context has increased the vulnerability of populations to health stresses and disasters.
Empowering women in communities will help speed up the pace of development. The new US strategy for development ASKS THE AMERICAN people to recognize that ‘in our integrated, interconnected world, our prosperity and security are closely connected to those of other nations and peoples’. The question I keep asking myself is how to get Americans, from their civic organizations, their school classrooms, and even from public libraries, more involved in the matters of the world around us?
The American Red Cross (ARC) is one of the national Red Cross societies in the International Red Cross movement. It is uniquely placed and does help to limit the worst of human suffering, both in the US and abroad. In my role as the Volunteer Co-Chair for the Measles Initiative, I am actively promoting activating International Service Committees in Red Cross Chapters around the US.
Citizen diplomats working with their Chapters can facilitate the work of local International Services components, both in terms of education and advocacy. Volunteers can help to unlock even a greater potential by America and American citizens to improve communities all around the world, to build their disaster preparedness skills and abilities. We need to work together to put the new US strategy into action.
I call upon ARC Volunteers, in all 50 States, to use your creativity and abilities to help achieve the best possible outcomes for all 8 MDGs by 2015. Our education and advocacy efforts are vital to ensuring successful MDG outcomes by 2015.