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Asia-Pacific countries sign new commitments for women and children

Commitments to save women and children1
© UNICEF/LAOA2005-5230/Jim Holmes
A Laotian boy receives a deworming tablet while the District Mother and Child Health outreach team visits his village.

Bangkok, Thailand, 30 May 2011 - Five Asia-Pacific countries have joined 11 other states in announcing new commitments to dramatically reduce maternal, newborn and child mortality, as part of the UN-led Global Strategy for Women’s and Children’s Health.

The Lao People's Democratic Republic, Mongolia, Myanmar, Papua New Guinea and Viet Nam agreed at last week’s World Health Assembly in Geneva to adopt measures proven effective in preventing deaths. These measures include increased contraceptive use, improved access to emergency obstetric care, prevention of mother-to-child transmission of HIV, childbirth attended by skilled health professionals, and childhood immunizations.

The other 11 countries to announce new commitments, made with the support of UNAIDS, UNFPA, UNICEF, the World Bank and WHO, were Burundi, Chad, the Central African Republic, Comoros, Guinea, Kyrgyzstan, Madagascar, Sao Tome and Principe, Senegal, Tajikistan and Togo.

In welcoming this development, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said political and financial support for action on women's and children's health was “reaching new and encouraging heights”, and that these government commitments proved that “saving the lives of the most vulnerable can attract support at the highest levels''.

The Secretary-General is leading the Every Woman Every Child campaign to accelerate progress on Millennium Development Goals 4 (child mortality) and 5 (maternal health).

Commitments to save women and children1
© UNICEF/NYHQ2004-1325/Shehzad Noorani
A midwife examines a pregnant woman using a traditional foetal stethoscope during a routine prenatal examination at a rural health sub-centre in Thee Kone Village in the central Magway Division, Myanmar.

Every year, 355,000 women in the developing world aged 15-49 die of pregnancy and childbirth-related complications.  And every year, 2.6 million children are stillborn, and a further 8.1 million die before their fifth birthday, including 3.3 million babies in the first month of life.

"Focusing on the women and children in greatest need is not only the right thing to do, it moves us faster and most cost-effectively towards meeting the health Millennium Development Goals," said Anthony Lake, UNICEF Executive Director.  "By choosing to redouble their efforts on maternal and child health, these 16 nations are not only saving lives, they are making an investment in their future."

“The commitments by countries demonstrate that we are on the verge of a tipping point,” says Dr Babatunde Osotimehin, the Executive Director of UNFPA.  “Countries in different regions and situations are stepping forward as the Global Strategy catches fire.” 

World Health Organization Director-General, Dr. Margaret Chan, said the Global Strategy was an “unprecedented opportunity” to help the world’s neediest women and children.  “The commitments made by Members States, donors and other partners are an impressive signal that we collectively take responsibility to achieve the health-related Millennium Development Goals and save more women's and children's lives,'' she said.

A health worker weighs a baby as its mother looks on at Umarakana village health clinic in the Trobriand islands, Papua New Guinea.

The US$40 billion Global Strategy, developed under the auspices of the UN Secretary-General, was launched in September 2010 to reduce maternal, newborn and child mortality in developing countries.

''The Global Strategy has created a rallying point for all countries to be part of a global conversation about women and children,'' says Dr. Julio Frenk, Chair of the Board of the Partnership for Maternal, Newborn and Child Health (PMNCH), and Dean of the Harvard School of Public Health.

The PMNCH, which supports the Global Strategy, is a global health partnership administered by the WHO launched in September 2005 to accelerate progress towards achieving MDGs 4 and 5.  The Partnership has some 260 members, including partner countries, UN and other multilateral bodies, NGOs, health professional associations, donor governments, foundations and academic and research institutions. 

The specific commitments by Asia-Pacific countries under the Global Strategy are as follows:

The Lao People's Democratic Republic
The Lao PDR commits to provide free deliveries to ensure access to the most vulnerable; produce 1,500 new midwives by 2015 by upgrading existing staff and training and recruiting new staff; and increase immunization from 67 per cent to 90 per cent by 2015.  The country will also increase the proportion of couples with access to modern contraception and the proportion of births attended by a skilled attendant.

©UNICEF/LAOA2005-5276/Jim Holmes
Nang Thoum 24 years old, receives a neonatal tetanus vaccination when the District Mother and Child Health outreach team visits her village in Lao PDR.


Mongolia commits to increase financial allocation to the national immunization programme; improve provision of micronutrients to children under five; ensure reproductive health commodity security; implement a policy on increasing salaries of obstetricians, gynecologists and pediatricians by 50 per cent; and increase the number of health facilities for women and children, including the construction of a new Women's and Children's Health Centre in Ulaanbaatar.

©UNICEF/NYHQ2010-0448/Andrew Cullen
A local doctor examines a four-month-old baby, held by his mother, in the subdistrict of Bayangol, the poorest area in Bulgan District, Khovd Province, Mongolia.

Myanmar commits to ensure 80 per cent ante-natal care coverage; 80 per cent of births attended by a skilled attendant; 70 per cent access to emergency obstetric care; and 80 per cent coverage for prevention of mother-to-child transmission of HIV (PMTCT) as well as its integration with MCH (Maternal and Child Health).  The country will also ensure universal coverage for the expanded immunization; increase the proportion of newborn who receive essential newborn care at least two times within first week of life by 80 per cent; increase contraception prevalence to 50 per cent; reduce unmet need for contraception to under 10 per cent; improve ratio of midwife to population from 1/5000 to 1/4000; and develop a new human resources for health plan for 2012-2015.

©UNICEF/NYHQ2005-1629/Myo Thame
A woman holds her infant while a midwife administers a dose of Vitamin A, in the village of A Sin Chaing in Ayeyarwaddy District, Myanmar.

Papua New Guinea
Papua New Guinea commits to improve midwifery education and register 500 new midwives by 2015; increase number of obstetricians from 17 in 2011 to 40 in 2020; improve access to drugs and equipment necessary for maternal newborn and child health; introduce maternal health audits in all districts; and develop comprehensive plans to improve existing health services in all four regions of the country by 2015.

© UNICEF/PAPA2006-00001/
A health worker and a mother weigh a baby at the Port Moresby General Hospital, Papua New Guinea.

Viet Nam
Viet Nam commits to increase rate of pregnant women with access to PMTCT services from 20 per cent to 50 per cent; increase the rate of people with disabilities with access to RHC (Reproductive Health Care) services from 20 per cent to 50 per cent; increase rate of pregnant women receiving antenatal care (at least three visits during 3 trimesters) from 80 per cent to 85 per cent;  increase the rate of couples who received pre-marital counseling and health check from 20 per cent to 50 per cent; and the rate of women giving birth with trained health workers from 96 per cent to 98 per cent.  

 © UNICEF/NYHQ1999-0818/Roger LeMoyne
A woman health worker changes the diaper of an infant while his mother watches at the community health centre in Lason Commune in the northern province of Ha Nam, Viet Nam




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