Africa: New Development Goals ‘Unprecedented’ Opportunity for Families

The two of us met for the first time more than a decade ago, in the small rural village of Momemo, an hour’s drive and a world away from the urban bustle of Maputo, Mozambique’s capital and largest city. Our 2003 visit to Momemo was intended to gain a deeper understanding of the impact of malaria on the lives of villagers in areas particularly hard-hit by the disease.

But as we sat outdoors talking with a small group of villagers, the conversation covered a range of issues about the health and wellbeing of women and children in the village. How early did women marry here? How many children did they have? How many children had they lost to illness? Could they work and care for children severely sick with malaria?

Although the two of us came to that conversation with very different life experiences, we were drawn together by a common mission: enabling a healthier and more productive life for women and children in the poorest countries. This year, we have come together again – this time to carry the voices of women like those we met in Momemo to a different conversation, one that will affect women everywhere for a generation to come.

As you read this, world leaders are engaged in discussions about a new global development plan that will succeed the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) when they expire at the end of 2015. Of all the important actions the United Nations has taken over the years, the MDGs have been one of the most important and successful. The MDGs provided a framework that laid out in clear and succinct terms the kind of world we want, with priorities, hard targets, and deadlines to improve the lives of the world’s poorest people.

Guided by this framework, a broad coalition of developing countries, donor governments, development partners institutions, the private sector, and civil society have made good progress tackling big challenges: extreme poverty, child and maternal mortality, infectious diseases, and gender equity in education.

But significant challenges remain. In 2013, 17,000 children under age five died every day, many from preventable causes. Nearly 300,000 women died during pregnancy and childbirth. And 162 million young children suffer from chronic undernutrition.
The MDGs showed that enormous progress is possible. With the next global development framework – the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which will guide human development investments through 2030 – we have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to go the last few miles and accelerate progress where it has fallen short.

As a recent report by U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon noted, “millions of people, especially women and children, have been left behind in the unfinished work of the MDGs.” For the SDGs to succeed and ensure that no one is left behind, we believe world leaders must keep the focus on ambitious but achievable targets centered on the health and wellbeing of women and children.
At a minimum, we believe we must finish the work of the MDGs by setting and meeting concrete targets for child, newborn, and maternal health by 2030.

Cut child deaths by two-thirds

One of the great successes of the MDGs is a dramatic reduction in child mortality. Every year, over more than four decades, child mortality rates have fallen. In 1990, 10 percent of children globally died before age five. Today, that number is down to 5 percent. This is tremendous progress, but the numbers are not going down fast enough. As the families we met in Momemo know all too well, survival is still a fight for tens of millions of children in developing countries. In 2013, 6.3 million children died before their fifth birthday – many from preventable causes.

If our previous successes in driving down child mortality have proven anything, it is that each and every one of us can do more, and we can do better. As a global community, we know what works. Vaccines that safeguard children against deadly diseases play a large role.

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