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Kolleen Bouchane Headshot

Getting on the Same Page to End Child Deaths

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Nearly 30% of child deaths around the world could be prevented using tools we already have. That we fail to prevent these deaths is one of the single largest failures of humanity.

Can most of us even imagine a world in which two million less children die every year? Can most of us even imagine two million children?

I can.

And so can all of those who have worked tirelessly to release The Integrated Global Action Plan for the Prevention and Control of Pneumonia and Diarrhea (GAPPD).

This plan is a long time coming. Together, pneumonia and diarrhea - preventable illnesses that have proven, cost-effective, and nearly identical interventions - account for 29% of the world's child deaths.

That's not to say we've been dragging our feet. There have been other plans, but unlike the GAPPD they weren't integrated together, nor did they drill down to the country level where programs and policies are actually carried out.

From supplementing a child's diet with Vitamin A, to improving drinking water and sanitation, to immunizing children with new and basic vaccines, the GAPPD details the proven practices that can be integrated to scale up the global fight against pneumonia and diarrhea, and end deaths from these two illnesses by 2025.

We know these interventions work, and we know how much they cost. What we now need is political will and investment to tackle these diseases as one, beginning with the poorest and most vulnerable children in our world.

To do this smartly we need to hold many ideas in our head at once - sanitation, vaccines, micro-nutrients and more. Every intervention necessary to keep a child healthy must be considered together.

For example, through the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB and Malaria we've ensured 310 million insecticide-treated bednets have been distributed. Do the children under these nets have safe water and sanitation, enough nutritious food, and access to vaccines?

We cannot invest in one way and fall short in another.

That the health of our world's children galvanizes so much attention and passion in so many different ways is heartening - but it's also a challenge for directing our energies efficiently to save lives. The GAPPD articulates integrating interventions to fight pneumonia and diarrhea, but we also need to unify our voices to ensure various plans and strategies on child health are all part of the same fight to end preventable child deaths.

For instance, the Child Survival Call to Action hosted last year by the U.S. had the potential to be a turning point. Was it?

Not quite yet. Pressure is needed to urge leaders to back up their lofty speeches with concrete, coordinated plans and investments.

With the world off target to reach the Millennium Development Goal of reducing child deaths by two-thirds by 2015, action is more urgent than ever.

So while I think the GAPPD is a step in the right direction, and I'm excited by its ambition and promise, there is a danger this plan may get lost in a shuffle of policies and pledges.

Not any one advocate or agency has all the resources and answers we need.

How do you think donors, policy makers, implementers, and advocates can coordinate to ensure the GAPPD is carried out in the countries and communities that need it the most?

Leave a comment below or join the #MindtheGAPPD conversation with @bouchane and @ACTION_Tweets.