|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
Secretary-General Says Governments Must Take Lead in Providing Health Care,
but Private Sector, Civil Society Have Crucial Role to Play
Following are UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s remarks, as prepared for delivery, to private sector and civil society leaders, in Abuja, Nigeria, 23 May:
Somewhere today, in Nigeria, a child is polio-free, a mother is nursing a healthy baby, a family is free of malaria — because a business or a civil society group decided to devote attention and resources to their health.
We are here tonight to celebrate these gains — and to explore how to scale them up — here in Nigeria and around the world. I am delighted to see such high-level representation here — from the private sector, from civil society and from Government. By collaborating together — creatively, cooperatively — Nigeria can achieve its development objectives.
A little over a decade ago, world leaders agreed on a set of targets — the Millennium Development Goals — a blueprint to improve the well-being of the world’s most vulnerable people. In many countries, in many areas, we are seeing great headway.
The glaring gap is on women’s health and children’s health. We know what works. We have the tools. And yet, progress has been too slow. It is precisely in the areas of women’s and children’s health that we can make the greatest impact — for individuals and communities, for nations and economies.
That is why, at the United Nations General Assembly in New York last September, we launched the Global Strategy for Women’s and Children’s Health. It was created with the full support and collaboration of Governments, international bodies, philanthropic organizations, the private sector and civil society. More than $40 billion dollars was committed for its implementation. The Global Strategy is supported by “Every Woman, Every Child” — my initiative to help turn these extraordinary commitments into reality.
I commend the TY Danjuma Foundation for joining Every Woman, Every Child — and I ask you all to become a part of it. What is at stake are lives — millions of women, newborn infants and children. Yes, we know that Governments must take the lead in providing the framework for effective health care. But, private sector and civil society have a crucial role to play in delivering it.
Consider the work of the Global Polio Eradication Initiative. This is the world’s largest public-private sector partnership, spearheaded by the World Health Organization (WHO), United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), Rotary International and the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Working with Governors, religious and traditional leaders — and I would like to highlight the critical role of Rotarian communities from abroad and here in Nigeria — the Initiative has brought a 95 per cent decline in polio cases in the past year alone.
But we must be vigilant. If we let our guard down for a minute, polio can spring back. We cannot let this happen. I hope everyone in this room will help us to keep up the effort. Let us eradicate this crippling disease once and for, just as we did with smallpox. We can also bring an end to deaths from malaria.
Nigeria has set itself a goal of providing universal coverage of long-lasting insecticide-treated nets. To achieve this, the Government will need to work closely with civil society and the private sector — to raise funds, distribute bednets, educate families and advocate for more support.
Another health challenge that highlights what we can achieve is the fight against HIV/AIDS. Thanks in no small part to the advocacy efforts of non-governmental organizations, increased numbers of young people use condoms and have fewer sex partners. We are seeing less stigma associated with the disease and more open discussion about how to prevent and treat it.
There are many other opportunities for providing extraordinary benefits to the poorest and most vulnerable members of society. In many cases, they are also opportunities for the private sector — not merely as exercises in corporate responsibility, but as sound business.
Your engagement is essential. You have the tools and the power to affect people’s lives for the common good. You set the pace on research and technology. You understand logistics, finance and marketing. A company that can deliver cold drinks or fuel to the most remote communities can also deliver vaccines, bed nets or life-saving public health information. Those of you who are rolling out the communications infrastructure that is empowering Africa’s people can work together to make sure people have the information they need, when they need it. Imagine, a nurse in a rural health centre being able to send an ultrasound image from a mobile device to a doctor in Lagos or London and get advice back in real time. These things are possible.
Let us also build on the important work already achieved in differential pricing for vaccines and other important medicines. Finally, let every company that commits to Every Woman, Every Child commit to the health of each and every woman in their workforce. Let us lead from the front on women’s empowerment and gender equality.
I am pleased to see so many women represented here today. I firmly believe women need to be seen and heard in parliaments, and in boardrooms. By working together — Governments, civil society, the private sector and the United Nations — there is little we cannot achieve. This is the message of Every Woman, Every Child. Tonight, I would like to you to think what you can do — together — to benefit your country. Share your ideas and your experiences, create new networks and partnerships. You have the power — literally — to change the face of Nigeria. By working together, you can give Nigeria a healthy future. Now is your time.
* *** *