Stories: Children, Communities, Futures

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UNICEF has released its latest report on child survival. The 2014 Committing to Child Survival: A Promise Renewed progress report is the second in a series intended to track progress on child survival and hold Governments accountable to their promise of reducing by two-thirds the under-five mortality rate between 1990 and 2015, a promise that was renewed by world leaders in 2012.

The report finds that globally, major progress has been made in improving child survival. The lives of almost 100 million children under age 5 have been saved over the past two decades, including 24 million newborns. Despite these advances, the toll of under-five deaths over that same period is staggering: between 1990 and 2013, 223 million children worldwide died before their fifth birthday.

Some highlights from the report:

The under-five mortality rate globally has declined by almost half since 1990. The absolute number of under-five deaths was also cut in half during the same period, from 12.7 million to 6.3 million, saving 17,000 lives every day. Despite this, progress is insufficient to meet the target of reducing by two-thirds the under-five mortality rate by 2015. If current trends continue in all countries, the target will only be reached globally by 2026.

Pneumonia, diarrhoea and malaria make up about one-third of all under-five deaths. Although child deaths from leading infectious diseases have declined significantly, pneumonia, diarrhoea and malaria were still the main killers of children in 2013. Importantly, neonatal deaths account for 44% of all under-five deaths.

The lives of 24 million newborns have been saved since 1990. The worldwide neonatal mortality rate fell by 40 per cent between 1990 and 2013. Yet despite the availability of effective, proven strategies to prevent newborn deaths, 2.8 million babies still died in the first month of life in 2013, largely of preventable causes.

For 1 million babies every year, their day of birth is also their day of death, accounting for more than a third of neonatal deaths. Close to 2 million newborns die in the first week of life. Investments in maternal care, specifically labour and delivery care and other high-impact interventions focused on the 24 hours around the time of birth, hold the greatest potential for reducing neonatal mortality.

Investments in educating girls and high-quality care for mother and baby are critical for child survival. Neonatal mortality rates of babies born to mothers with no education are nearly twice as high as those babies born to mothers with secondary education or higher. And while we know that complications during labour are responsible for around one-quarter of all neonatal deaths, in 2012, one in three babies, an estimated 44 million newborns, entered the world without the help of a skilled health care provider, putting them at even greater risk during this most vulnerable time.

Read the full report here.

To all of our valued supporters, I wanted to provide this update regarding the Ebola crisis in West Africa, one of the worst public health emergencies seen in modern times.

Firstly I would like to confirm that ChildFund is responding to this health crisis through our partner organisations in the ChildFund Alliance. ChildFund works in four of the countries affected by the outbreak €“ Guinea, Liberia, Sierra Leone and Senegal. ChildFund does not operate programs in Nigeria, which is also affected.

It is thanks to our child sponsors that we have been able to respond so quickly in the communities where we work. During an emergency, a portion of sponsorship funds may be allocated to assist affected children and families. This means we can provide immediate help and then assess whether further funds are needed.

In each of the affected countries, ChildFund is working collaboratively with the Government, local partners and other organisations such as UNICEF, the World Health Organisation and World Food Programme to respond to the needs of children. In all affected countries, the major concerns for children are insufficient food, poor access to water, sanitation and hygiene facilities, medical care, trauma support and protection, and community awareness about prevention and treatment of Ebola.

Secondly, I know sponsors will be very worried about their sponsored children. However, I hope you understand that we are unable to request information on individual sponsored children at this time. Our staff on the ground are working under very difficult circumstances and all attention is currently focused on the emergency response.

As updates come through, we will share them with you as quickly as possible. General updates can be found on our website. Information about individual children will not be shared publicly €“ if we receive information about your sponsored child, a member of our Supporter Relations team will be in touch.

We hope this FAQ below answers any further questions you have. Thank you for your continued support of our work assisting children and families, particularly during this devastating public health emergency.

What is the current situation?

(Please note: The situation is changing daily, however, this information is correct as of 12 September)

ChildFund works in four of the countries affected by the outbreak €“ Guinea, Liberia, Sierra Leone and Senegal. ChildFund does not operate programs in Nigeria, which is also affected.

The number of recorded cases of Ebola in Guinea, Sierra Leone, Liberia and Nigeria has risen to 4,784, with almost 2,500 people dying from the disease. The situation in Senegal, which confirmed its first €“ and so far, only €“ case of Ebola on 29 August, remains stable but on high alert.

In all countries, the major concerns for children are insufficient food, poor access to water, sanitation and hygiene facilities, medical care, trauma support and protection, and community awareness about prevention and treatment of Ebola.

Is my sponsored child ok?

We are unable to make enquiries about individual sponsored children at this time. However, our local staff are in close contact with affected communities and will continue to provide us with updates when they can. We will contact you directly if we receive news about your sponsored child. Otherwise, general updates can be found on our website, Facebook Page or Twitter.

Can I continue to write to my sponsored child?

Yes, however, please be aware that responses to your letters may take a lot more time than usual. Currently, letter writing and delivery activities have been put on hold in affected communities. This is a direct result of the health crisis. Please be patient, resources within communities are stretched and ChildFund staff are focused on emergency response activities.

How is ChildFund helping affected children and families?

ChildFund and its local partners in Guinea, Liberia, Sierra Leone and Senegal are working at the community level to increase awareness about how to prevent the spread of the disease and the need for early medical attention. Simple measures, like hand washing, are proving to be one of the most effective ways to protect children and families from the virus, so we are providing bleach, hygiene kits and gloves at places like schools, hospitals and border crossing checkpoints. We are training and equipping health personnel, assisting with the delivery of life-saving medical supplies and also recruiting health education volunteers within communities.

This community-centred approach has created trust and increased public support for the use of preventive measures, particularly in Guinea where no new cases have been reported in any of the communities where ChildFund works since the end of March. ChildFund continues to collaborate with the Government in each country, UN agencies and other INGOs working on the epidemic to ensure that all activities complement each other.

Why hasn`t ChildFund Australia launched an emergency appeal?

In Guinea, Liberia, Sierra Leone and Senegal, sponsorship and donor funds are assisting in the fight against Ebola in the communities where ChildFund works. Additional funds have also been contributed from our partner organisations in the US, Germany and Korea. At this stage, further funds have not been requested, however, this may change as the crisis continues.

It must be noted this is a different kind of emergency that requires specialised personnel and medical equipment to treat people who contract Ebola, contain the spread of the disease and support the very basic health infrastructure that exists in the affected countries. As organisations like MSF Australia have highlighted, while NGOs have a role to play, it is the responsibility of governments around the world to prevent this becoming a global health crisis. For example, the United States has agreed to send 3,000 military personnel to Liberia to construct disease treatment centres and train health care workers.

The UN and WHO expect the international effort to stop Ebola will cost close to $US1 billion. Only $US300 million has been promised so far, including $8 million from the Australian Government. ChildFund urges swift and significant action by world leaders to combat this health crisis.

How can I help?

As a child sponsor in the affected countries, you are already assisting. Your sponsorship donations are currently helping to protect children and families from Ebola in the communities where ChildFund works. Thank you so much for your support.

If you would like to further assist, or if you don’t currently support in these countries, you may wish to consider sponsoring a child in Sierra Leone or Senegal. Sponsorships are not currently available in Guinea or Liberia.

You can also join the call for world leaders to take strong action to fight Ebola by signing this petition.