Good evening everyone. Thank you so much for being here.
Thank you, Ambassador Powell, and a warm welcome to the Minister and to all of our very distinguished guests tonight. It’s been, for me and my family, an extraordinary honor and a powerful experience to visit India for the first time. My family are here with me tonight, and I hope they’ll have an opportunity to share with you how special this experience has been for all of us. And I want to thank my dear friend Nancy—Ambassador Powell—for making all of this possible.
Hearing Ambassador Powell talk about Eleanor Roosevelt’s trip to India some 60 years ago is truly inspiring. Mrs. Roosevelt was highly progressive for her time and devoted herself to advocating for social causes in the United States and around the world. From women’s empowerment and the welfare of children, from the rights of workers to a world free of racial discrimination, Mrs. Roosevelt demonstrated heartfelt support for these key issues, which continue to play a major role across the globe today.
Prime Minister Nehru, a visionary leader, must have recognized Mrs. Roosevelt’s enlightened worldview when he invited her to visit India. She brought the same vitality and dedication to India as she brought to her work in the United States.
This evening, I would like to focus on an issue of great significance to Eleanor Roosevelt, to India, to the United States and indeed to the whole world: the challenge of child survival.
By the end of this year, more than 7.6 million children will die worldwide before reaching their fifth birthday. As a mother and a policymaker, I find this not just heartbreaking, but intolerable. Yet despite this staggering statistic, we are fortunate that the world has seen major breakthroughs in our ability to save children’s lives. Thanks to advances in technology, knowledge and expansion of health programs, as well as the leadership of countries such as India, today it is possible to eliminate preventable child death.
India’s success in nearly stopping the transmission of polio shows what can be achieved with a program of focused and well-coordinated international cooperation.
In June of this year, the governments of the United States, India and Ethiopia, in collaboration with UNICEF, launched a new global Call to Action for Child Survival: A Promise Renewed. This initiative aims to eliminate preventable child deaths by the year 2035, so that all children born in India and elsewhere live to see their fifth birthdays and beyond.
Both in the United States and in India, Eleanor Roosevelt made time to meet with children and to understand their needs. She is a major reason why UNICEF is still thriving today and able to help galvanize the Call to Action. Her strong advocacy for UNICEF becoming a permanent United Nations entity in the 1950s ensured its continued existence and the pre-eminent role it plays to this day in promoting the welfare of children worldwide.
One striking things about improving child survival in India and so many other countries is that the solutions are often inexpensive and very straightforward: a bednet, an oral rehydration packet, a vaccine.
With this in mind, I am pleased to announce tonight that the U.S. Government is adding an important new partner—local Indian company Pharmasynth Formulations—to its Friends of Childhood Alliance, or “Sathi Bachpan Ke,” which works to expand the availability and use of life-saving products for children.
Even with such cost-effective solutions, however, the path to success will be difficult. As Secretary Clinton said at the Washington launch of the Call to Action, “We can only meet our ambitious goal if we keep up our efforts day after day and year after year, and if we are relentless about holding each other to the task.” India deserves the highest praise for taking on the challenge as a co-convener of the Call to Action.
Engaging children and motivating them to become involved will ensure the sustainability of all of our work. And that is why the U.S. Embassy here will sponsor a drawing contest for children ages 8-12 across all of India. The contest results will be announced on October 11 this year, which is recognized as the International Day of the Girl Child by the United Nations.
My family and I have had a truly wonderful visit in India, which we will never forget, and I want to thank the Indian people and the Indian government for the great hospitality that you have shown. Thank each of you joining us tonight for this reception. It is my sincere hope that the values personified by Eleanor Roosevelt and sustained by our ambassador, Nancy Powell, remain a foundation for an ever-stronger bond between the peoples of India and the United States.
Thank you again.