In the United States, polio was successfully eradicated in 1977. For years, this disease plagued the world and took the lives of countless children, and left many others disabled. Today, because of increased government support, scientific advances in immunization, and humanitarian groups like Rotary International that deploy dedicated health workers for vaccination campaigns, polio is now endemic in only 3 countries. Soon, many experts believe, polio can be completely eradicated from the world through access to life-saving vaccines.
This is terrific news and it demonstrates the impact of U.S. leadership on the lives of children around the world.
Today, the leading killers of children in the developing world are completely preventable and treatable diseases, pneumonia and diarrhea. Combined, they claim the lives of more than 2 million children under the age of five die every year. Ten countries in the developing world account for 60% of these child deaths. However, with greater access to health education and resources, these countries could save the lives of children.
Earlier this year, I co-sponsored the Frontline Health Workers Resolution (H.Res. 734). This is a bipartisan resolution that is aimed at recognizing the importance of community health workers throughout the world who are providing health care to the poorest of the poor areas. These individuals often have to travel days by foot and rely on a backpack of supplies to deliver life-saving health care to rural communities. In short, without them, millions of families throughout the world would never receive health care because they live too far away to access hospitals, clinics, doctors and nurses.
By providing vaccinations, basic antibiotics to treat pneumonia, oral rehydration therapy and zinc to treat diarrhea, and other health services, frontline health workers are often the difference between life and death. According to RESULTS, the Ethiopian government trained 40,000 community health workers and sent them out into the rural regions across that country. Five years later, there was a 50% reduction in malaria related deaths. This is impressive and speaks volume to the effectiveness of frontline health workers.
This month, UNICEF reported under-five child deaths dropped from 12 million a year in 1990 to 6.9 million a year in 2010 thanks to many of the services provided by frontline health workers. This is an incredible accomplishment, but more must be done.
In order to continue to lower child mortality rates and to prevent further deaths from pneumonia and diarrhea, I will continue to support efforts by our nation and others to support frontline health workers. By aiding those most in need, health workers throughout the world are saving children and teaching them important health skills that they can carry with them for the rest of their lives. I applaud those working on the frontlines and know that you are helping to end preventable childhood deaths.