Statement by UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta Fore at High Level Political Forum side event on ending newborn deaths

16 July 2018

NEW YORK, 16 July 2018 - These are the prepared remarks of UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta H. Fore – to whom quoted text may be attributed – at today's High-level Political Forum side event : Ending preventable newborn deaths through clean, functional health facilities within the reach of every mother and baby. 

"Excellencies, honoured guests, ladies and gentlemen. Thank you for joining us for this important event.

"Clean water, soap, antiseptic, electric lights. These might seem like simple things. But in fact, they are critical for keeping mothers and babies alive.

"In February, we launched a new campaign — “Every Child Alive” — to end the tragedy of preventable newborn and child deaths.

"Every year, 2.6 million newborns die — one million of them don’t survive their first day. By the end of today, the world will lose another 7,000 newborns. Many will die from infections…from complications around the time of birth…from being born too soon.

"In other words, they die from causes we could prevent. If their mothers had access to quality, affordable health care. If there were enough skilled health workers to go around. If facilities were clean and well-resourced.

"These lives might have been saved by items we take for granted. Clean water and soap so a midwife can wash her hands. Antiseptic fluid to clean the umbilical cord. A lamp to illuminate the delivery room.

"But these basic necessities aren’t available in many places.

"In Yemen, for example, I visited a hospital where the power was suddenly cut. Staff scrambled to stabilize children who were on respirators.

"But the needs go beyond countries in conflict.

"Data from more than 50 countries — representing more than 60,000 health facilities worldwide — show that two in five health care facilities do not have an improved water source. Fewer than one in five have improved sanitation. More than one-third lack water and soap for handwashing. And as I saw in Yemen, electricity is often lacking or unreliable.

"This is a problem that seems simple to solve. It is not. We need the ideas, innovations and investment of governments, civil society and the private sector to help us identify and scale-up solutions that work.

"We also need to make sure that we are working together efficiently to implement these solutions. Ethiopia’s OneWASH programme is a good example, with the private sector, along with the country’s health, education and water and sanitation sectors, joining forces to scale-up WASH services across the country. All using one plan and one budget to achieve results.

"That’s why I’m pleased that we’re joined today by representatives from Ethiopia, as well as Mali and the United States — champions of newborn survival who are delivering real results for their children in their countries and around the world.  

"I’m also excited to see representatives from the private sector, academia and civil society here with us, including our panellists from LIXIL, Yale University and Global Water 2020. Your insights and achievements are the keys that can unlock real progress. I look forward to seeing some of your solutions and devices that can help us reach our goals.

"Today, we have an opportunity today to discuss fresh approaches to ensure that when a father brings his child to a clinic for medical care…when a mother prepares to give birth…when a newborn takes her first breath…they have access to the simple, lifesaving advantages that every person deserves.

"Thank you, once again, for lending your ideas and innovations to this important cause. I look forward to our discussion." 

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