in Women and Maternal Health
J. CHANDLER (IDN)
- At least one woman dies every 90 seconds from pregnancy-related causes
and another 20 suffer infection or disability, while four million
newborns die every year.
These grim numbers actually represent improvements over the last 20
years, during which many international gatherings have pledged
investments in women that failed to materialize.
The gatherings included the 1994 International Conference on Population
and Development, the 1995 Beijing International Conference on Women, the
Monterey Consensus 2003, the 2004 Paris Declaration on Aid Effectiveness
and the Accra Agenda for Action 2008 as well as the Millennium
Development Goals (MDGs), especially Goals 4 and 5 related to maternal
and newborn health, agreed in the year 2000.
A comprehensive report tracking progress in maternal and child health
was launched on June 8, 2010 at the 'Women Deliver' conference in
Washington. According to the 'Countdown to 2015' Decade Report
(2000-2010), a lack of skilled attendants at birth accounts for two
million preventable maternal deaths, stillbirths and newborn deaths each
year, in spite of remarkable progress in some poor countries.
The report argues that achieving MDGs 4 and 5 is possible by the
deadline year 2015, but only a dramatic acceleration of political
commitment and financial investment can make it happen.
The report features country profiles from the 68 countries that account
for at least 95 per cent of maternal and child deaths that include
coverage data for a range of key health services, including:
contraceptive use, ante- and post-natal care, skilled attendance at
delivery, child health, financial investments in maternal, newborn and
child health, equity of access, health systems and policy.
According to the report, preliminary estimates show that if current
funding trends continue during by 2015, the 68 countries included in the
report will face a roughly $60 billion funding gap relative to the costs
of implementing a full package of maternal, newborn and child health
If public commitments by both aid donors and governments are met --
assuming a linear increase to 15 percent of gross national product by
2015 for African countries committed to reaching the Abuja target and 10
to 12 percent for all other 'Countdown' countries -- the gap remains $22
This analysis shows that more funding is needed for countries to be able
to provide universal coverage of essential maternal, newborn and child
Total ODA (official development assistance) for maternal, newborn and
child health in 2007 was $4.1 billion, up 16 percent from 2006 and
nearly double the $2.1 billion in 2003. Although these trends show
improved commitment, ODA for maternal, newborn and child health
accounted for only 31 percent of all ODA for health in 2007, says the
ODA flows for maternal, newborn and child health are important to track,
but national resources are a much larger share of funding for maternal,
newborn and child health, the report points out. Even for very
low-income Countdown countries such as Ethiopia and Malawi, national
sources account for half or more of total spending on reproductive and
The 'Women Deliver' Conference participants from 146 countries welcomed
the announcement at the gathering of $1.5 billion in new grants from the
Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and the launch of a Joint Action Plan
for women’s health by Ban Ki-moon, Secretary General of the United
"We will take our energy to the G8/G20 meeting in Canada this
month, to the African Heads of State meeting, to the UN summit on the
MDGs in September," said Jill Sheffield, President of 'Women
"The world leaders face a planet overflowing with difficult
problems. But here is one major challenge they can meet. The women of
the world have delivered for their countries. Now is the time for the
leaders of the world to deliver solutions for women."
Supporting this call, government ministers attending a 'Women Deliver'
Forum said: "The continuing weaknesses in the global economy in the
wake of the financial crisis; the devastating impact on household
economies; and . . . reports that many developing countries will not
achieve their poverty reduction goals by 2015, in spite of considerable
progress made so far; provide a rare opportunity to match our words with
To this end, they called upon leaders around the world to take immediate
steps to ensure the health, dignity and rights of all girls and women.
"The most immediate opportunities to demonstrate our seriousness
are the preparations for the G8/G20 Leaders Summit in late June and the
United Nations High Level Meeting to Review the MDGs in September; we
call on leaders everywhere to publicly announce the steps, within their
respective mandates, that they will take to save the lives of girls and
women, starting now."
The ministers emphasize the need to:
- Identify and agree on the funding gap needed to achieve MDG5 by 2015
through existing and new innovative financing mechanisms.
- Place MDG5 at the centre of global health initiatives and funding
mechanisms, including the Global Fund for AIDS, Tuberculosis and
Malaria, the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunisation, the
International Health Partnership plus, the Task Force on Innovative
Financing for Health Systems Strengthening, and UNITAID.
- Address health system strengthening, particularly the training and
retention of human resources, and the need to consider innovative
mechanisms that address the loss of skilled health care workers.
- Harmonize, align and coordinate resources behind robust national
health plans for a more effective use of domestic and external
resources, maximizing management for results and mutual, integrated
- Call on the world's public sector financial institutions to review
debt relief measures to enable countries to apply that funding to
targeted interventions to achieve MDG5.
The ministers say for all this political courage is required. Fighting
discrimination against women challenges tradition and existing power
structures, but it is a long-term investment in more prosperity for all.
Programmes and laws to address cultural and political barriers to
maternal and newborn health care and gender equality, can only succeed
if they are publicly supported at the highest levels of Government and
enforced, the statement adds.
| Analysis That Matters]