Child Survival Summit: ‘We’ll be held accountable,’ says Church World Service head
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Child Survival Summit: ‘We’ll be held accountable,’ says Church World Service head

Washington : DC : USA | Jun 21, 2012 at 9:17 AM PDT
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Clinton says faith-based and civil society organizations play crucial role in ending child mortality

CWS among faith leaders from 40 countries pledging to support child-saving practices at hard-to-reach community levels

Washington, D.C. – Wednesday, June 20, 2012 -- In the afterglow of the energy that characterized last week’s two-day international “Child Survival Call to Action” summit in Washington, D.C., the head of global humanitarian agency Church World Service has welcomed the advances shared and commitments made by some 57 countries to end preventable child deaths in our lifetime, but he is voicing a cautionary note.

“The world is watching us. The clock is ticking. By our mutual agreement, we will be held accountable, and we cannot allow the afterglow to fade,” said CWS Executive Director and CEO Rev. John L. McCullough.

McCullough was one of 750 participants at the high-level summit, convened by the governments of the United States, Ethiopia and India in collaboration with UNICEF. Participants from 80 countries included ministry-level representatives and leaders in government, health care, private sector, faith-based and civil society organizations.

The primary goals of the participating countries and organizations: To reduce the number of deaths of children under five years to 20 for every 1,000 live births by 2035, and to drastically lessen maternal, prenatal and newborn deaths.

Representing a faith-based humanitarian agency that focuses on food and nutrition security and child health in some of the world’s most vulnerable communities, CWS’s McCullough said, “Nations have made significant gains in reaching the Millennium Development Goals to conquer preventable maternal, newborn and small child mortality. We have lowered small child mortality by one-third over the past 20 years. Yet, seven million children still are dying every year from causes that are within our power to prevent. That is not acceptable.”

USAID, UNICEF and co-conveners of the child survival summit produced a global roadmap outlining five ways to accelerate progress and prioritizing focus on the 24 countries that represent 80 percent of under-five child deaths, with concentration on India, Nigeria, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Pakistan and Ethiopia -- the five countries that account for nearly half of global under-five mortality.

Clinton: Crucial role of faith community, civil society

Opening the D.C. summit, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said improving child health "cannot be just a job for governments," and announced that more than 60 faith-based organizations from 40 countries were joining the fight to end preventable childhood deaths. CWS was among signers of the Ten Promises to Our Children pledge, launched by the Center for Interfaith Action and Religions for Peace.

During an interfaith reflections gathering at the end of the summit’s first day, CWS’s McCullough spoke of the importance of “the active intervention of faith” in achieving the ultimate goal of zero preventable child deaths. He cited the biblical text, "Let the children come unto me, for to such as these belongs the kingdom of heaven," as a reminder of “a key principle of the Christian faith, the welfare or survival of children.”

NGO head’s loss of brother to childhood illness: ‘unfolding today 21,000 times over’

McCullough recalled his own childhood and the memory of his older brother who fell ill while building sandcastles on the beach one summer day and later “succumbed to a deadly disease that according to modern medicine is fully preventable.”

McCullough said he has carried the memory of his brother for more than 50 years, wondering “what kind of a man he would have become, how he would have changed our family, what contributions he would have made to society, and what our world lost as a result of his premature death.” He told those gathered, “Today Allen Jay's story is unfolding 21,000 times over.”

McCullough said that more than an intellectual or professional challenge, the Call to Action for Child Survival “is a deeply emotional and spiritual one. Child Survival is a challenge that cannot respect one religion more than another, honor one creed more than any other, or value the children of one nation as greater than those of other nations.”

In a panel summit on the critical role of the faith community and civil society, presenters discussed how the Call to Action initiative can help religious traditions connect families to local resources, recognizing that people gather in houses of worship and, once there, can be directed to available NGO and private services.

CWS’s McCullough notes that his agency’s integrated sustainable agriculture and food and nutrition programs historically and typically are implemented in partnership with regional faith- and community-based organizations.

In recent years, CWS has been expanding its maternal awareness and micronutrient interventions for malnourished small children in rural, under-served areas of Kenya, Central American and Asian countries. Those initiatives focus on empowering families and communities to establish their own, ongoing life-supporting food and nutrition solutions and practices.

Interfaith attack on ‘mosquito as terrorist’

On the faith community’s role in combating preventable diseases, Nigerian InterFaith Action Association Executive Director Bishop Sunday Onuoha told the D.C. summit that in fighting malaria in his country, NIFAA developed a sermon about mosquitoes, collected Koranic verses about health, and used those devices to educate people about malaria. After one year, evidence indicated a lessening of malaria in the two states wherethe group reached out.

“A mosquito is a terrorist,” he said. “I don’t know of a terrorist attack that has killed 350,000 people a year. Mosquitoes have killed that many Nigerians in a year.”

For more information on the “Child Survival Call to Action” and USAID’s related “Every Child Deserves a 5th Birthday” campaign: http://5thbday.usaid.gov/pages/ResponseSub/Event.aspx

For information on Church World Service mother/child-centered programs: www.churchworldservice.org .

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Feeding the future, tackling malnutrition in Indonesia
A mother feeds her baby high-nutrient therapeutic food at a Church World Service feeding center in West Timor, Indonesia. Photo: Matt Hackworth/Church World Service
jandragin is based in Hull, Massachusetts, United States of America, and is a Stringer for Allvoices.
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