I've always loved music, and when I was 5 years old, I heard a song that became a theme for my childhood: "Today is the first day of the rest of your life." I still believe that.
A 5th birthday should be a joyous occasion--one to be celebrated with family and friends. It's an important time in a child's life. They start school or begin to establish the person they will grow up to be. But tragically, more than seven million children die every year before they reach their 5th birthday, many from preventable causes.
Over the last 50 years, we have made incredible progress in the reduction of child mortality, with child deaths reduced by 70%. This result is largely due to the availability and increased use of high-impact tools and interventions for child survival, notably new vaccines and better access to basic healthcare at a local level. At GSK, we're committed to playing our part by making sure our medicines and vaccines are accessible to the children who need them through our generous donation programs and partnerships with groups such as UNICEF and GAVI, and by investing to develop new treatments where needed.
We are also involved in partnerships to bring simple interventions to rural areas--such as GSK and Save the Children's collaboration on the PHASE program to teach children to wash their hands, significantly improving their chance of fighting serious diseases. And, we recognize that even in developed countries there are patients without access to the care they need, so we fund programs like the Children's Health Fund to provide healthcare to underprivileged and homeless children across the US.
However, in rich and poor countries alike, the poorest and most disadvantaged children continue to miss out on life-saving, affordable interventions.
This week, the Child Survival Call to Action will take place in Washington, DC. Convened by the governments of United States, Ethiopia and India, and organized in close collaboration with UNICEF, the Child Survival Call to Action will bring together 700 prominent leaders from government, the private sector, faith-based organizations and civil society to kick off a long-term, focused effort to save children's lives.
As part of the Call for Child Survival, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) is creating a virtual photo album commemorating 5th birthdays everywhere. I was honored to join world leaders, including Secretary Hillary Clinton, in this initiative by posting a photo of myself when I was five years old, and I look forward to representing GSK next week in Washington, as the public and private sectors convene to discuss how, together, we can stand up for the health and futures of our children.