More than 700 global health leaders and practitioners representing 80 different countries from Afghanistan to Zimbabwe ascended upon Georgetown University's campus on June 14 and 15 to participate in the Child Survival Call to Action Summit. This summit was assembled by the governments of India, Ethiopia, UNICEF and USAID and brought in speakers like the Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, Eastern Congo Initiative's founder and actor Ben Affleck, health ministers and global health leaders.

But this summit claimed it was doing more than just getting heads together to talk about the issues we already know exists. This was a call to action: the call was for the private-sector, civil society and faith-based organizations to gather together and create achievable global efforts and goals that would reduce the deaths of children from preventable causes. “We have the tools, the treatments, and the technology to save millions of lives every year, and there is no excuse not to use them,” said UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake. According to UNICEF, the Child Survival Call to Action challenges the world to make specific plans to reduce child mortality to below 20 child deaths per 1,000 live births in every country by 2035 and did so by focusing on five key areas: high burden populations, high impact solutions, providing education for women and girls, establishing shared goals and increasing efforts in high impact nations.

The latest figures published by the World Health Organization (WHO) this year, estimate that more than 7 million children will die from preventable causes before they are to celebrate their fifth birthday. Of these 7 million children, more than half of these deaths are due to “conditions that could be prevented or treated with access to simple, affordable interventions.” The leading causes of death for children under five are pneumonia, diarrhea, birth asphyxia and malaria. Additionally, approximately one-third of childhood deaths are connected to malnutrition.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton gave the keynote address the first day of the conference. In relation to these astounding statistics, she addressed this issue in one of the world's hardest-hit places-- Sub-Saharan Africa: “A child born in sub-Saharan Africa is seven times more likely to die than one born here in the US. Child mortality rates are coming down, but too slowly.” She continued, “We can’t wait a hundred years for a child from Pakistan or Nigeria to have the same chance at life as a child in the United States or Europe. None of us want to live in a world where a child’s life comes down to the luck of the draw.”

At the end of Secretary Clinton's remarks, she reminded us that in the twentieth century our world came together and ended smallpox. Furthermore, we are close to eradicating polio, with Health Minister Azad of India reporting at the summit that India has not had a case of polio in the last 17 months. “If we meet the goal we are committing to today,” Clinton closed with, “if we make sure that every child everywhere has the same chance to reach his or her fifth birthday, then we will have added another story to the short list of the greatest things people have ever done for one another.”

So, did this conference achieve the goals it set out to? The energy, commitment and excitement as people left the last day of the conference sure felt like it. Of course only time will tell, but we can't rely on governments and agencies to do all the work. Everyone can and should be involved. To find out more information and to stay up-to-date with these efforts visit and make this pledge too!  As UNICEF Deputy Executive Director Gupta remarked as she ended the summit: “That is our call to action, working together, each and every one, to bring about an unprecedented reduction in preventable child deaths, to renew the promise to give every child the best possible chance to survive.” Let us work together to make preventable childhood deaths a thing of the past.