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August 18 marks a significant marker to 500 days left to meet Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) targets. Today, the world is on the brink of a major breakthrough to ensure mothers, newborns and children everywhere survive. If there's one place to trace the seeds of this brewing revolution, it's India.

MDGs: the world's "to do list" to improve lives agreed upon in the year 2000 by representatives from 189 countries including India to framework that would steer development agenda for the next 15 years.

Celebrating success, building momentum

Today, the world is on the brink of a major breakthrough to ensure mothers, newborns and children everywhere survive. If there's one place to trace the seeds of this brewing revolution, it's India. It is heartening to note that India is on track to meet the MDG 5 by reducing Maternal Mortality Rate (MMR) from 437 in 1990 to 178 per 100,000 in 2010-2012. It is noteworthy that India's decline between 1990 - 2012 has been an impressive 70 per cent, while global decline in the same period has been just 48 per cent.

India has also made dramatic progress in bringing the under-5 mortality from 114 in 1990 to 52 per 1000 live births in 2012, reducing it by more than half the number in the mentioned period. While the global progress between 1990 - 2012 has seen a decline of 44.8 per cent, India in the same period has achieved a commendable decline of 58 per cent.

Even though we have brought down the number of preventable child deaths, we continue to lose 1.4 million children (14 lakh) even before they see their 5th birthday.

The last frontier

However, India also faces some of the greatest challenges in seeing this revolution through. India has persistently high rates of newborn mortality, and accounts for 26.6 percent of all newborn deaths globally, accounting 758,000 newborn deaths a year. Newborn mortality contributes to more than half of under-5 deaths in India.

It is the first hour, first day and first month that is most critical and needs maximum guard. To see the progress on child survival through we must conquer the last frontier - save newborns.

From pledges to action

In this India has already initiated a nationwide momentum to scale up services to reach every mother and newborn through RMNCH+A (Reproductive Maternal Newborn Child Health + Adolescents) continuum of care in a life cycle approach addressing the health of mothers and children.

In a series of steps the national level plans and strategies are speedily being rolled out across the high priorities states in the country. Building on partnerships and forging new ones, the strategy aims at bringing together various sectors - businesses and private sector, training institutions, civil society and faith based organisations to deliver unprecedented breakthrough in newborn and child survival.

In his maiden international meeting 'Acting on the Call: Ending preventable child and maternal deaths' in Washington DC, Health Minister Dr Harshvardhan spelt commitment in towards accelerating progress on maternal and child survival. In setting the ambition of zero preventable deaths he asserted "It is now evident that with the sustained efforts across the globe with a focus on equity, the goal of ending preventable child and maternal deaths by 2035 seems well within our reach."

India has already mobilized the most important ingredient to achieve any large-scale change - political will.

Keep the momentum

We know that curbing child mortality levels in India could dramatically bend the curve for child mortality levels globally, and the world is looking to India to turn our pledges into reality.

Today we are at a critical juncture towards the achievement of Millenium Development Goals 4 and 5 and success seems within grasp. Even with 500 days left to achieve the MDGs India can indeed achieve the targets on maternal and child survival, with a final accelerated, coordinated push.

For the world to crack the breakthrough, India must lead the way. Will India surprise the world?


More about Pragya Vats

Pragya Vats works with Save the Children.

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