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Meeting notes progress on reducing maternal and child mortality

By Chris Niles

NEW YORK, 24 September 2012 - UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake hosted a high-level Health 4+ meeting on women’s and children’s health at UNICEF’s New York headquarters today.

24 September 2012: UNICEF correspondent Chris Niles reports on a United Nations partnership to end preventable maternal deaths.  Watch in RealPlayer


UNICEF works with the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN Women) the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), the World Bank and the World Health Organization (WHO) to implement the United Nations Secretary-General’s Global Strategy for Women’s and Children’s Health. The partnership is known as Health 4+ (H4+). The H4+ advocates for a stronger focus on maternal, newborn and child health and works with countries to strengthen health systems and provide better services for mothers and children. UNICEF is leading coordination of the H4+ partnership for one year, as of September 2012.

The event was timed to coincide with the 67th Session of the United Nations General Assembly.

Speakers highlight equity, preparedness

Event participants included First Lady of Zambia Dr. Christina Kaseba Sata, Director-General of WHO Dr. Margaret Chan, UNFPA Executive Director Dr. Babatunde Osotimehin, UN Women Executive Director Michelle Bachelet, UNAIDS Executive Director Dr. Michel Sidibé and World Bank Vice President for Human Development Tamar Manuelyan Atinc.

© UNICEF/NYHQ2012-1184/Markisz
(Centre) UNAIDS Executive Director Dr. Michel Sidibé speaks at the UN H4+ High-Level Breakfast Meeting at UNICEF House. Beside him (left-right) are First Lady of Zambia Dr. Christine Kaseba Sata and World Bank Vice President for Human Development Tamar Manuelyan Atinc.

In outlining the importance of universal healthcare, Dr. Sata said her own experience of a difficult birth had made the subject of maternal mortality one that was close to her heart.

“I would like to influence and advance the policies and strategies that ensure equity of access to quality, timely and sustained maternal and child health services,” she said.

Maternal mortality has decreased by nearly half over the past two decades – from an estimated 543,000 maternal deaths in 1990 to 287,000 in 2010. Still, that figure means that, every day, approximately 800 women die from preventable causes related to pregnancy and childbirth.

Child mortality has also decreased. Yet, every year, 6.9 million children under 5 years old die – from infectious diseases exacerbated by undernutrition, from complications during the neonatal period and because of a lack of quality healthcare.

“I am reminded of how well equipped we – the H4+ and all our partners – are to realize the vision of the Secretary-General set out in the strategy for Every Woman, Every Child. Together we can save the lives of millions of women and children by 2015,” Mr. Lake said.

Sweden’s Minister for International Development Cooperation Gunilla Carlsson announced a $52 million grant for the partnership, highlighting progress made and emphasizing the need to accelerate it.

© UNICEF/NYHQ2012-1188/Markisz
(Centre) WHO Director-General Dr. Margaret Chan attends the United Nations H4+ High-Level Breakfast Meeting at UNICEF House. With her are (left-right) UN Women Executive Director Dr. Michelle Bachelet, World Bank Vice President for Human Development Tamar Manuelyan Atinc (partially visible) and Minister of International Cooperation of Canada Julian Fantino.

Scorecard and accountability

The United Nations partnership is working in countries such as Afghanistan, Bangladesh, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia and Zambia to improve health systems and to train medical staff. UNICEF is developing a scorecard to help monitor progress.

Dr. Chan told participants that an independent Commission on Information and Accountability for Women’s and Children’s Health will decide how effective the partnership has been.

“They are here to hold us all to account – whether or not we are keeping our promises,” she said.

Every Woman Every Child is a global movement to address the major health challenges facing women and children around the world. It was launched by United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in September 2010. The governments, multilaterals, civil society and private-sector organizations that have joined the movement have committed to implement the Secretary-General’s Global Strategy for Women’s and Children’s Health [pdf], which seeks to enhance financing, strengthen policy and health systems and improve services for the most vulnerable women and children. The H4+ serves as the technical lead for advancing the Global Strategy for Women’s and Children’s Health.



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