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Dr. Rajiv Shah Headshot

Every Child Deserves A 5th Birthday

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As a father of three, I see unlimited potential when I look at my children. And I am reminded that my own parents came to the United States from India so that my sister and I could have a strong education and greater opportunity in life.

But around the world, many parents don't have this luxury. And in many cases, the greatest fear of a parent is that their son or daughter won't even reach the age of five -- an important milestone for survival.

Seeing a child die from pneumonia, diarrhea or a mosquito bite is simply unimaginable to most parents. But that is the sad reality for many families each day. Last year over seven million children under five died of largely preventable causes.

Today, the global community has the knowledge and the affordable tools to change the course of history. A $4 bed net protects a mom and child from malaria. Cost-effective vaccines offer life-long protection from diseases like pneumonia and diarrhea. A trained community health worker can help a mother survive childbirth and ensure every infant takes its first breath. Treatment can prevent mother-to-child transmission of HIV. And adequate nutrition in the first 1000 days can determine the rest of the child's life.

At the current annual rate of decline of 2.6 percent, the gap in child death between rich and poor countries would persist until nearly the end of this century. But we are capable of much more. By working closely with countries and continuing our results-oriented investments in global health, we can bring the rate of child mortality in poor countries to the same level it is in rich countries.

Tomorrow, April 23, I will join several partners at the Kaiser Family Foundation to preview a global campaign to help get more kids safely past five. I'll lay the groundwork for a Child Survival: Call to Action in June, when the governments of the United States, India and Ethiopia will join together with UNICEF to mobilize the world to end preventable child deaths. Our focus is on building political will and driving collective action around a global roadmap -- and developing mechanisms to hold all countries to account.

I will also launch "Every Child Deserves a 5th Birthday," an awareness-raising campaign led by the U.S. Agency for International Development to raise awareness ahead of the Call to Action. Please join me in posting a photo from your fifth birthday -- if you can't find one, any photo of you or your kids at five will work -- and sharing it via our website and social media outlets. Tomorrow, the website will be live at 5thBDay.usaid.gov.

The event starts at 10 a.m. EST, and you can watch it here. Please use #5thBDay to be part of the conversation on Twitter.

Everyone has a role to play when it comes to the survival of the world's children. All we have to do is act.

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