Letter: Stopping needless deaths of chidlren within reach

From: Gene Arnholt


In a recent good news/bad news story, The Republic reminded us of an issue by which history will judge us: the incredible number of children under 5 who are dying each day. The good news: A U.N. report says the worldwide under-5 death rate has been cut in half since 1990. The bad: We have fallen far short of the goal of a two-thirds reduction, to which the U.S. and other nations committed themselves in 2000. As a result, 16,000 children under 5 are still dying daily, mostly from preventable causes.

Studies have now shown that we can end preventable child deaths in the next 20 years. Effective interventions need not be expensive. For example, a program in Zambia proved able to reduce the death rate significantly just by teaching birth attendants to dry off newborns, keep them warm and help them take their first breaths.

If the U.S. wants to help stop the needless deaths of children, we need to set clear goals, direct aid to areas where child death rates are highest, coordinate our assistance with other funding sources and scale up the programs that have been proven to work. That is the approach mandated by the Reach Every Mother and Child Act, recently introduced in the Senate as S.1911, with a corresponding House bill soon to follow. The bill has bipartisan support, with prominent co-sponsors such as Sen. Marco Rubio. Sens. Dan Coats and Joe Donnelly should add their names as well.