Committing to End Preventable Child Deaths

Congressional Child Survival Prayer Breakfast: Celebrating the Faith Community’s Commitment to Ending Preventable Child Deaths

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Did you know that in 1990, 12.6 million children suffered preventable deaths worldwide?

Last week however, Food for the Hungry (FH), World Vision, Christian Connections for International Health, and Catholic Relief Services as well as U.S. Congressional Offices and Government officials gathered on Capitol Hill for the second annual Congressional Child Survival Prayer Breakfast to celebrate a 50 percent decrease in preventable child deaths in the past two decades (from 12.6 million in 1990 to 6.6 million in 2012).

U.S. foreign assistance has truly helped lead the way—in fact, no other nation has done more than the U.S. to make these global health results possible. And faith communities play an integral and an often unsung role in this success.

On average, faith-based organizations receive 16 percent of their funding from government sources. This shows strong grassroots and faith community support for international development, but also tracks what we know from experience – that partnerships with government are often vital to success and developing strong, sustainable programs.

Screen Shot 2015-05-21 at 9.40.30 AMIn 2011, 78 of the largest US faith-based international development organizations invested more than $5 billion in funds from private sources to meet the needs of those living in extreme poverty. In the developing world, it is estimated that faith-based organizations provide between 25 and 75 percent of the health care services, depending on the country.

The Abrahamic faiths share a common religious call to respond to sickness and poverty. Because of that, faith communities are in a unique position to work together to continue to reduce child mortality. We share the bond of knowing we are called to care for all God’s children, not just those found within our own faiths or nations’ boundaries. Responding to ‘the neediest,’ not just ‘the nearest’ isn’t just a good idea, it is the moral instruction of every faith.

It was incredibly moving to hear some of our nation’s leaders speak about their personal faith and experiences working with faith-based organizations. For many of our leaders, their personal faith has been bolstered by seeing the impact of these organizations, and has in turn increased their drive to sponsor legislation to help reduce child mortality.

Perhaps most poignant was a closing prayer offered by Senator Chris Coons of Delaware, that many, including myself, echo: “Help us to see the cries of the upturned hearts everyday.”

In many ways this was a bittersweet occasion. Thanks to the joint efforts of government, non-governmental programs, and faith communities, millions of children are alive today! However, there is still tremendous work to be done.

Of particular concern is the percentage of under-5 deaths that occur in the neonatal time period. In 2012, 2.9 million children (44 percent of under-5 deaths) died in the first 28 days of life. The number of children losing one or both parents to AIDS has risen to 17.3 million, and 1.9 million children need anti-retroviral medicines, but only 34 percent receive them.

As we have seen, the involvement of faith communities is vital to the continued progress in protecting children in extreme poverty. To learn more about what FH is doing to combat child mortality and to see how you can get involved, please visit