- Associated Press - Thursday, June 14, 2012

WASHINGTON (AP) - What do Hollywood superstar Ben Affleck and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton have in common? Both Clinton and Affleck think every child across the world deserves a fifth birthday.

The actor and diplomat embraced as they crossed paths onstage this morning at Child Survival Call to Action, a conference hosted by the government in collaboration with Ethiopia, India and UNICEF to recognize and promote efforts to curtail child mortality.

During her speech Clinton announced that more than 60 faith-based organizations from 40 countries were joining the fight to end preventable childhood deaths through promotion of breastfeeding, vaccines and healthcare for children.

Saving children’s lives “cannot be just a job for governments,” Clinton said.

Clinton praised the Ethiopian and Indian governments for their efforts to reduce child mortality.

Affleck explained how the organization he founded, Eastern Congo Initiative, played a role in diminishing child mortality in the Democratic Republic of Congo, emphasizing the importance of supporting Congolese efforts within their own communities.

“The Congolese must lead in this effort,” Affleck said.

He called high death-rates for children under 5 years old “abhorrent” and “unacceptable,” but he praised Kenya, Senegal and Rwanda for their success in lowering those rates.

Between 1990 and 2010, the mortality rate for children under 5-years-old in Senegal dropped by 46 percent, by 44 percent in Rwanda and 14 percent in Kenya, according to UNICEF. All three countries have rates of less than 43 deaths per 1,000 live births, which is one quarter fewer than the World Bank’s global average of 57.89.

Affleck and Clinton were two of more than 80 governmental, civil society and business leaders slated to speak at the conference Thursday and Friday. More than 750 people attended the first session at Georgetown University.