Africa – UN spotlights Women’s and Children’s health improving

In Africa,

UN chief spotlights progress in improving women’s and children’s health

26 May 2011
Visiting health workers in Ethiopia today, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon spotlighted the progress made in improving the health of women and children, while also stressing the need to do more to avoid needless deaths.
“Training good health workers [and] training good midwives can save a lot of women’s and also children’s lives.”
The Horn of Africa nation knows all too well the challenges associated with ensuring maternal and child health. Every 25 minutes, another Ethiopian woman dies from complications related to child birth. Most are in rural areas, far from any clinic.
At the health post, Mr. Ban met with the staff providing essential services to communities previously living without ready access to such care.
He also visited a larger health centre, a few kilometres away, which supports the health post by providing it with supplies and on-the-job training. There he spoke with doctors and nurses about their work, as well as with some patients.
“I hope that the Government will try to expend these posts, clinics and centres and also hospitals,” said the Secretary-General, who also spotlighted maternal health when he visited Nigeria earlier this week.
At a major UN development summit in New York last September, participants adopted the Global Strategy for Women’s and Children’s Health, committing $40 billion in resources to a global effort to save the lives of 16 million women and children by 2015.
The strategy identifies the finance and policy changes needed, along with vital interventions to help improve health and save lives. It is expected to prevent, between 2011 and 2015, the deaths of more than 15 million children under five, as well as 33 million unwanted pregnancies and the deaths of 740,000 women from complications related to pregnancy and childbirth.
Mr. Ban commended Ethiopia on its commitment to improve maternal and child health, including its goal of quadrupling the number of midwives. The country is a good example of how a little investment can go a long way in saving many lives, he added.
The UN chief is now in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, where he is attending an African Union meeting on peace and security. On the sidelines of that meeting, he met with the Vice President of South Africa, the President of Equatorial Guinea, the President of Senegal and the Prime Minister of Ethiopia.
Yesterday, while in Nigeria, he told a national forum of governors that the country deserved credit for its efforts to improve health care, especially for women and children.
“But much more can be done,” he said. “In particular, I urge you to remedy the gap between the provision of health infrastructure and the quality of service. Address inequities in accessing care, and ensure that funding for women’s and children’s health is available and smoothly disbursed throughout the country. Make commodities, drugs and supplies more readily available.

“I urge you, too, to work towards equal participation of women and men in public life. This will go a long way to improving women’s and children’s health. I also encourage you to expand the successful Midwives Service Scheme and deploy community health extension workers to rural areas.”strong>

Here is some HOPE:

Sixteen countries pledge support for UN initiative to reduce maternal mortality

Goal 5 of the MDGs: improve maternal health

May 2011 –
Sixteen countries have announced concrete commitments aimed at drastically reducing current levels of maternal, newborn and child mortality, the United Nations reported today.
The commitments, largely in the form of specific budgetary increases for maternity and natal care, and promises of increased medical coverage for mothers and children, were announced as part of the Global Strategy for Women’s and Children’s Health, a $40 billion programme that Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon launched last year. The new commitments bring to 34 the number of countries making such public pledges, with 27 in Africa.

Mr. Ban welcomed the announcement, saying the commitments build on recent momentum towards tackling women’s and children’s health problems.

“Political and financial support for action on women’s and children’s health is reaching new and encouraging heights,’’ he said.

Echoing those remarks, UN Population Fund (UNFPA) Executive Director Babatunde Osotimehin said the world is now “on the verge of a tipping point” in the fight against maternal and child mortality.

The new pledges were announced by Burundi, Chad, the Central African Republic (CAR), Comoros, Guinea, Kyrgyzstan, Laos, Madagascar, Mongolia, Myanmar, Papua New Guinea, São Tomé and Príncipe, Senegal, Tajikistan, Togo, and Viet Nam.

The commitments, made with the support of THE Joint UN Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the World Bank, UNFPA and the World Health Organization (WHO), focus on measures proven effective in preventing deaths, such as increased contraceptive use, attended childbirth, improved access to emergency obstetric care, prevention of mother-to-child transmission of HIV, and greater childhood immunizations.

Eight countries promised specific increases in the national budgets for medical care for women and children. Others announced specific goals in increasing the coverage area and numbers for such care. At least 10 countries making new commitments promised to increase the number of midwives.

Every year, 358,000 women in the developing world aged 15-49 die of pregnancy and childbirth-related complications, 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.

UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake and WHO Director-General Margaret Chan said the pledges will also help with efforts to try to attain the social and economic targets known as the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), which have a deadline of 2015.

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