In 2000, the United States and 188 other nations pledged to achieve the Millennium Development Goals of cutting poverty and hunger in half and ensuring children everywhere can grow up healthy and go to school by 2015.
The U.S. and the entire international community have made enormous progress. Already, 88 percent of children in the developing world are enrolled in primary school and 82 percent have received a 26¢ measles vaccine.
To meet our goals for all the world’s children, we must maintain this progress and amp up our efforts because of (and in spite of) the global economic recession that threatens to undo our achievements that kept nearly four million kids under-five alive last year.
New legislation will deliver and expand these goals and STAND for the world’s children in seven ways:
- Authorize an International Children’s Ambassador: The Ambassador will strongly advocate within the administration, with Congress and the international community for the prioritization of key U.S. programs that serve the world’s most vulnerable children. He/she will report directly to the Secretary of State or White House. The office should include professional staff with expertise on children’s policy issues and budget process.
- Fully Fund Programs for Orphan and Vulnerable Children (OVC):A child who’s lost one or both parents must find money for school fees, food, clothing and basic healthcare. Their situation makes them more vulnerable to abuse and exploitation, ultimately making them more susceptible to contracting HIV. To remove these risks, our efforts must strengthen the capacity of families and communities so they can care for and protect these children and meet their basic needs.
- Authorize Early Childhood Development (ECD) Internationally: Early nutrition, parenting programs and early education are fundamental building blocks for a healthy childhood and productive future. Hundreds of millions of children younger than five in developing countries are susceptible to poverty, malnutrition, poor health and neglectful home environments. These conditions damage a child’s cognitive, motor and social-emotional development. As a result, the child will likely do poorly in school, have a low income, high fertility and may not be able to adequately care for his or her own children. Investing in Early Childhood Development can end the cycle of poverty and actually save money in the long term.
- Authorize Family Strengthening Services and Social Protection:A child develops best in safe, supportive family settings. Not in orphanages. To preserve families and support children, we must support vulnerable families so they can afford to raise their children in a safe and healthy environment. We need to fund community-based child care so parents and grandparents caring for kids can go to work. And we must support community monitoring and intervention so children are safe from violence and exploitation. If a child cannot stay at home, foster care and domestic adoption should be the first line of defense with the goal of finding the child a permanent loving home.
- Fully Fund Child Survival, Maternal Health & Nutrition Programs: Malnutrition kills between 3.5 and five million children under-five each year. To keep children and mothers alive, we must address this medical emergency that accounts for 11 percent of the global burden of disease. In addition, we must fund programs that protect newborns and young children from pneumonia, diarrheal diseases and vitamin-A deficiency. Healthy children also depend on healthy mothers, yet half-a-million mothers die each year because they don’t have access to something so simple as a sanitary place to give birth. We need to increase funding for maternal health programs in order to annually stop 500,000 newborns from becoming orphans at birth.
- Increase Access to Basic Education:For a child to reach her full potential, it’s critical that she receives a basic education. The world has made great progress for all our children in education, yet half of the 72 million children out of school have never been inside a classroom. Education alleviates poverty and grows economies. It can also improve health outcomes. If every child in the world received a complete primary education, as many as 700,000 cases of HIV could be prevented each year.
- Ensure Coordination, Monitoring & Evaluation: To assist the world’s children as best we can, we must coordinate, monitor and evaluate the programs that serve them. These organizational efforts will reduce double-counting and make the most effective use of our resources.
Not only is investing in kids the moral answer, it’s also the smart one. If we STAND for the world’s children now and invest in the life of a girl in Botswana who can’t pay to go to school or the life of a boy being exploited in a Delhi slum, then in 20 years the U.S. will have prospered with them. In our unified world, we all benefit when our children grow to their full potential.