Parliamentarians from Nepal, Sri Lanka and Cambodia commit to maternal and child health, and immunization
By – Ashma Shrestha Basnet and John Brittain
Kathmandu, 11 February 2010 - More than a hundred Nepali parliamentarians and representatives from the Parliament of Sri Lanka and Cambodia gathered this week in Kathmandu to commit to actively work to achieve maternal and child health and immunization targets.
The two-day advocacy event and a third day of field visits to health facilities in Nepal is the first of the series of events, which will be held over the next 6 months to accelerate the Countdown to 2015 in achieving Millennium Development Goals 4 and 5 which target reduced child mortality and improved maternal health.
The advocacy meeting concluded today with a nine-point commitment from the parliamentarians pledging action in several areas including advocacy for child health, especially in immunization and nutrition, and a pledge to promote the health rights of children. They promised to allocate sufficient funds to sustain immunisation programmes; to develop health policy at all levels from central to local with a special focus on disadvantaged groups; and monitor progress towards achieving the MDGs.
The event was organized by the Nepal Parliamentarian Committee on Women, Children and Social Welfare, with the support from UNICEF and the SABIN Vaccine Institute, to highlight the progress, obstacles and solutions to achieving the MDGs. The Countdown meeting is especially focussed on the use of evidence to enhance decision and policy making among Parliamentarians and promote increased health investments at the national level.
“Immunization and child health is not just a responsibility of the Ministry of Health but is the right of every child,” said Rt. Honourable Subash Chandra Nemwang, Speaker of Parliament of Nepal. “It is everyone, including the parliamentarians, who is responsible for ensuring the health of our children.”
“These achievements are a result of the strong commitment of the Ministry of Health and Population and all the partners working in this critical area,” said UNICEF Nepal Representative Gillian Mellsop. “The committed leadership of Parliamentarians will further our steps towards achieving MDGs 4 and 5 as they too can strongly advocate on the issue at the highest level, allocate adequate resources for child and maternal health, legislate to ensure universal access to essential care and also oversee the implementation of relevant policies.”
Talking about the role of parliamentarians in achieving MDGs, Her Excellency Mrs. Lork Kheng, MP, from the National Assembly of Cambodia said, “As Parliamentarians we should have enhanced accountability to perform in the roles of policy formulation, monitoring and implementation.”
Mrs. Kheng also spoke of the pledge made by world leaders to implement the commitments made when formulating the MDG goals. “I highly appreciate today’s meeting to exchange ideas, to strengthen mutual understanding and to remind the world community of the need for further support.”
The Ministry of Health, Ministry of Finance, National Planning Commission, Public Accounts Committee of the Parliament, UNICEF, WHO, UNFPA, USAID, AusAID, World Bank and the SABIN Vaccine Institute were all key participants of the symposium.