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Hillary Clinton, Ben Affleck Help Launch Child Survival Conference

Hillary Clinton

"We are all here today with one vision - to make sure every child everywhere lives to see his or her 5th birthday, to eliminate preventable child death in a generation," said Secretary of State Hillary Clinton during the Child Survival Call to Action conference.

June 14, 2012 – Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, actor/director Ben Affleck and School of Foreign Service Dean Carol Lancaster were on hand this morning to kick off the Child Survival Call to Action conference taking place at Georgetown today and tomorrow.

The effort is a collaboration of the governments of the United States, India and Ethiopia with UNICEF, and aims to challenge the world to reduce child mortality to below 20 child deaths (or fewer per 1,000 live births) in every country by 2035. 

“There are so many partners here, from the private sector to the nonprofit groups, the faith-based organizations,” Clinton said, “because of course saving children cannot be just a job of governments. It requires partnerships involving many of the governments, corporations and civil society groups represented in this room.”

5th Birthday

The Call to Action brings together more than 700 leaders and global experts from 80 countries. Many of them, who packed Georgetown’s historic Gaston Hall, had photos of themselves up on stage at about the age of 5 – an age that UNICEF says more than 7.6 million children a year do not live to see.

The secretary of state said a picture of herself at that age reminded her how lucky she was, how she could look forward to growing up, going to school and making friends.

“I know I was lucky, ” Clinton said. “All of those dreams were possible for me, and some I could never have imagined all those years ago. But this year, millions of children will never get to take a similar photo, because they won’t survive their first five years. That cannot be the future we want, for our children or anyone’s children.”

Reasons for Optimism

“We are all here today with one vision,” the secretary of state explained, “to make sure every child everywhere lives to see his or her 5th birthday, to eliminate preventable child death in a generation.”

Though some may question whether the 2035 goal is achievable, Clinton said “we have good reasons for optimism.”

“We already have many of the tools and much of the knowledge we need,” she said, noting that in the past 50 years child mortality has been reduced by 70 percent.

Good Will for Congo

Ben Affleck   Actor and director Ben Affleck said high child mortality rates in Eastern Congo and other places in the world are "abhorrent" and "unacceptable."

Clinton introduced Affleck, whom she called “a tireless partner in this effort, someone whose work has shined a bright light on the struggles facing the people of Eastern Congo, particularly women and children.”

When she visited the region in 2009, Clinton said she saw firsthand the actor/director’s Eastern Congo Initiative supporting civil society groups to meet some of the most pressing challenges in the country.

Affleck said Eastern Congo has the 5th highest child mortality rate in the world.

“I cannot imagine driving my wife to the hospital, pregnant, about to give birth, and thinking to myself, ‘Well there’s a 15 percent chance each one of these children won’t live to be five years old,’ ” said Affleck, the father of three young children. “It’s abhorrent, it’s unacceptable, we wouldn’t abide it in this country and we must not abide in the world… It is morally incumbent on us to work to eradicate this problem ...”

Expanding Engagement

Lancaster, who welcomed participants to the conference, served as USAID deputy administrator before coming to Georgetown.

“Every child deserves a fifth birthday,” the dean said, “with health with safety with love and with prospects for education and hopes for a bright future.”

“We are also expanding our engagement and in international development and global health to educate future generation of leaders in this important area,” Lancaster explained.

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