Vol. 10 - No. 1




Invest in Women and Maternal Health



TORONTO  - 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 interventions.

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 billion.

This analysis shows that more funding is needed for countries to be able to provide universal coverage of essential maternal, newborn and child health services.

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 report.

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 child health.

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 Nations.

"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 Deliver'.

"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 action."

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 accountability.

- 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.


[Source: IDN-InDepthNews | Analysis That Matters]

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