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It’s Both Shocking And Shameful That 1.3 Million Children Don’t Live Past The Age Of 5

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By David Oot:

Since 1990, and despite significant increases in the global population, the annual number of maternal and child deaths has dropped by nearly 50 percent. UNICEF estimates that 100 million children under age five have been saved over the past two decades alone. Several very poor countries, such as Nepal, Bangladesh, and Ethiopia are on track to meet the Millennium Development Goal of reducing under-five deaths by two-thirds by the end of 2015 – an achievement many once thought impossible. In sub-Saharan Africa, where efforts to reduce child death rates have lagged, a recent UNICEF report documented the good news that the annual rate of decline in mortality has accelerated since the early 1990s.

children kids stcYet globally, over 6 million children and nearly 300,000 mothers still die each year – most from preventable causes and more than 98 percent in the developing world. Access to quality care before, during and after delivery; immunizations; prevention and treatment of malaria; life-saving treatment of diarrhea and pneumonia; and improved breastfeeding practices could help save most of these lives. But too many, and especially the poorest and most marginalized, are still not benefiting from these lifesaving interventions.

It is for that reason that the Government of India hosted a ‘Call to Action Summit‘ on August 27 and 28 involving delegations from 24 countries, donors, and global health experts to review progress made, and actions needed, to accelerate progress toward the achievement of the global goal of “ending preventable child and maternal deaths.” On the eve of the main summit, August 26, Save the Children convened an international consultation of civil society organizations from across the world, to discuss similar issues, but from a civil society perspective, and develop a set of recommendations and key asks for governments’ to consider in future.

While some progress has been made in addressing the equity gap, we must do more. Save the Children’s recent report on urban health, for example, found that a child in the poorest quintile was twice as likely to die before his or her fifth birthday as a child in the wealthiest quintile. Wide disparities exist as well in access and use of high-impact services and practices that can save lives. In short, we need to focus more attention on understanding and removing barriers to access and increasing effective use of these interventions by those who need them most.

Imagine, for example, a mother who delivers her newborn in the absence of skilled attendant, a newborn that is not breathing but there is no one present who knows what to do, or a mother who knows she should breastfeed but others are telling her to discard the colostrum (the first milk from the breast filled with nutrients and antibodies for preventing illness). Imagine a family with a child in respiratory distress or suffering from dehydrating diarrhea, but does not know what to do or where to get quality, affordable care. None of us wants to be in this situation – but that is the reality for far too many.

In addition to closing the health care equity gap, we also need to focus more attention on ending preventable child deaths during the first month of life when 44 percent of children under age five die. In South Asia, this percentage is close to 60 percent, yet for many, access and use of quality maternal and newborn services and practices care that could save these lives remains low. Our world continues to rapidly urbanize, and an increasing portion of maternal and child deaths occur among the nearly 900 million who live in urban slums. Yet, we lack innovative, scalable approaches to reaching these populations with basic health services, including clean water and basic sanitation. Poor infant and young child nutrition are the underlying causes of nearly half of all under-five deaths, yet there are few examples of large-scale programs that have documented improvements in feeding practices and nutritional outcomes. We also know that ensuring access to contraception is key to improving maternal and newborn health and survival, but globally more than 200 million women or girls who want to delay or space a pregnancy are not using a safe and effective means of contraception. Increased investments in strengthened health systems will be key to achieving and sustaining progress in delivering these, and other interventions we know can dramatically improve health and survival.

These challenges may seem daunting, but we know they can be met. Our hope is that the experience and learning shared in the Call to Action Summit will help inform a renewed commitment to taking the actions needed to further reduce maternal deaths and end preventable newborn and under-five deaths as envisioned in the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals.

To show your support for ending preventable deaths of newborns and children under 5 years of age by 2030, sign this petition.

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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