UN-backed global drive to slash maternal and child deaths kicks off

26 September 2007 – From public rallies in various locations in New York to a meeting of women leaders at the United Nations, Governments and organizations are uniting to launch a new global and unprecedented drive today to slash maternal and child deaths.

The “Deliver Now for Women + Children” initiative is a direct response to warnings by the UN that the world is lagging behind in achieving the Millennium Development Goals to cut maternal and child deaths by 2015.

“Today is a day of hope for women and children. The cause of women’s and children’s health has remained ‘orphaned’ for too long. Now it is finally emerging from the shadows and gaining the champions it has always deserved,” said Francisco Songane, UN World Health Organization (WHO) Director of the Partnership for Maternal, Newborn & Child Health, which is coordinating the new drive.

A woman dies needlessly during pregnancy or childbirth every minute, while a child under five dies every three seconds, according to the new initiative. Most of these over 10 million deaths annually are preventable.

An additional $9 billion yearly is needed to meet the basic health care needs of women and children, but as of 2004 only $2 billion – less than a quarter of the funds required – were made available to help save women and children’s lives in developing countries.

The new campaign hopes to build political commitment to bolster health services, raise awareness in the media and support community groups.

“We are hopeful this will result in action to ensure health services are available for all with prompt access and without discrimination,” Dr. Songane said.

Country-specific programmes will first be launched in India and Tanzania. India accounts for one in four of the world’s child deaths and one in five of its maternal deaths, and half of the women in Tanzania have no access to skilled care during childbirth.

In New York, public rallies for the campaign are being held in Manhattan and the Bronx, with the participation of supermodel and WHO Goodwill Ambassador for Maternal, Newborn and Child Health Liya Kebede, singer Chaka Khan and actress and talk show host Ricky Lake.

Meanwhile at UN Headquarters, Deputy Secretary-General Asha-Rose Migiro, WHO Director-General Margaret Chan, UN Population Fund (UNFPA) Executive Director Thoraya Obaid and UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) Executive Director Ann Veneman are participating in a discussion entitled “Saving 77 Million by 2015: Advancing the Health of Women and Children.”

Today’s campaign is part of the broader effort being announced today by the Norwegian Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg at the annual meeting in New York of the Clinton Global Initiative and is supported by several governments – including the United Kingdom, France, Canada and Germany – as well as global health organizations.

“UNFPA welcomes all efforts, such as Deliver Now, that help speed up the achievement of the health related MDGs and especially those related to maternal and child health,” said Ms. Obaid “We must work harder and faster to end a situation where far too many women die during pregnancy and childbirth and far too many children are left as orphans. No woman should die giving life; No child should be without hope.”

Related Stories