Today we welcome a guest post by United States Congressman Adam Smith, representing Washington State’s ninth district.
My work has taken me to places where children are most affected by the scourges of extreme poverty. I’ve talked about the incredible impact of polio and malaria interventions in India, visited a community health center in Uganda, and observed the work of PEPFAR in Kenya. It is abundantly clear that investments in child and maternal health, nutrition, and clean water can have a real impact by preventing the death of children around the world.
I recently visited World Vision’s US headquarters in my home state and learned more about their campaign to end preventable deaths globally for children under five, an incredibly worthy goal. Taking action to vastly improve child health globally should be amongst our nation’s top foreign policy priorities. Measures working to advance maternal and child health programs that improve access to clean drinking water and sanitation services are vital to solving this crisis.
U.S. leadership in prioritizing health of mothers and children internationally has helped to cut deaths for children under five from 15 million a year globally to under 7 million a year and the death rates of mothers has fallen by 30 percent. This is tremendous progress, but we still have a lot of work to do. That is why it is critical to fund the Maternal and Children Health (MCH) account which provides for life-saving health services for infants, children, and mothers in developing regions of the world. The MCH account supports essential services for the most impoverished and undeveloped parts of the world. Services include training health-workers to treat illnesses, child nutrition, and more.
Sanitation and access to clean water must be prioritized as well to help the nearly 800 million people that don’t have access to drinking water and 2.6 billion that live without improved sanitation services. These are major challenges that must be addressed to reduce mortality rates for young children globally. Investing in access to clean water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) services can help reduce poverty, improve health, and save lives. Not only are these services desperately needed, but they have a great return on investment. The World Health Organization estimates that for each dollar spent there are returns of up to 34 dollars in saved health care costs. Further, prioritizing access to water is beneficial for all foreign assistance programs, as dirty water negatively impacts all areas of development.
As the father of two young children, I understand how important it is to parents and families around the world to help eliminate preventable deaths and ensure children around the world make it not just past their fifth birthdays but on to live long, healthy, and productive lives. As a member of Congress, I will continue to advocate for programs that help to improve child health across the world.