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We Must Recommit To Improving The Lives Of Children

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Few things matter more to a community, to a country, to a global society, than a child's health. Healthy children grow up to become healthy adults -- people who can create and contribute to the public good. Indeed, improving the health of a child is one of the greatest investments any society can make towards bettering its future.

Today, on World Health Day, we must take the opportunity to do two things. We must look at how far we have come together and learn from our achievements.

The beginning of 2016 marked the end of The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), set by world leaders at the start of the new millennium to guide progress in the most critical areas of human development. And in those last 15 years, we have learned this: that targets really do work.

More children are surviving their first days and years of life, and now have hope for a brighter future.

Progress in many areas may have been slow, and certainly slower than we would have hoped, but we saw that through targeted interventions, equipped with adequate resources and political commitment, improvement was possible.

Canada, for instance, played a lead role in driving the global effort to save the lives of children and mothers. Through an investment of $2.85 billion in the Muskoka Initiative for Maternal, Newborn and Child Health in 2010 -- and a further $3.5 billion over five years (2015-2020) -- Canada has helped to improve nutrition, reduce disease and strengthen health systems for mothers and children around the world.

Falling mortality rates since 2000 have saved the lives of 48 million children under the age of five. More children are surviving their first days and years of life, and now have hope for a brighter future.

But it's too soon to pat ourselves on the back. On World Health Day, we must also look at how far we still have to go -- and it's farther than we might like.

Given our available knowledge and technologies, if the preventable death of a young child wasn't inexcusable before, it most certainly is now.

Millions of children around the world continue to suffer from malnutrition, from preventable diseases, from exploitation. Every day 16,000 children under the age of five still die from mostly preventable causes -- 11 every minute. More than 80 per cent of these deaths occur in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia.

Our global progress has fallen short of our promises.

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As we move into the new era of the Sustainable Development Goals, or Global Goals, adopted by the UN General Assembly in September last year, we have 169 targets to work towards. These goals incorporate all aspects of sustainable development -- the social, economic and environmental -- and will touch on the lives of children everywhere.

The final results may not be tallied for another 15 years, but the decisions we make today will determine our progress tomorrow.

Given our available knowledge and technologies, if the preventable death of a young child wasn't inexcusable before, it most certainly is now.

Today cannot be a day like any other. It cannot be about business as usual.

Today we must recommit ourselves, renew our resolve, and take action to invest in children's health.

Because every child deserves every chance to survive and thrive.

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