15 April 2010

‘We Are at a Tipping Point’ in Maternal Health Movement, Those in Power Must Push for Progress, Says Deputy Secretary-General at Working Dinner

15 April 2010
Deputy Secretary-General
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

‘We Are at a Tipping Point’ in Maternal Health Movement, Those in Power

Must Push for Progress, Says Deputy Secretary-General at Working Dinner

Following is the text of UN Deputy Secretary-General Asha-Rose Migiro’s remarks at the working dinner on maternal health, in Greentree, New York, on 14 April:

Thank you for coming here today to focus on maternal and child health, a matter of life and death.   Many of you here are parents, or have loved ones who have given birth.  You know the immense sense of wonderment that comes with pregnancy.  But for too many women, there is also an unshakable sense of fear.

I know this fear as a woman and a mother.  And I think you are here because you feel, as I do, that we cannot sit by and watch hundreds of thousands of women die each year in childbirth. 

We must meet our obligations to the world’s women and children.  We must do so not just to achieve Millennium Development Goal 5.  We must do so because healthy women are the answer to solving many of the world’s most complex and pressing problems:  poverty; hunger; disease; and political instability. 

Healthy women are the foundation upon which all of the Millennium Development Goals stand.

This fact is evident in Haiti, where I just returned from last night.  I spent two and half days there meeting and talking with women and children who have found refuge in camps after their homes were destroyed. 

In a nation brought to its knees by an earthquake -- women are the ones in the frontline helping Haiti to stand tall again.

Women have organized patrol groups to protect themselves and their children at night.  Women have opened make-shift clinics to care for the sick.

Women are the ones fending for their families against all odds.  And even in the pouring rain that already pummels Haiti long before the beginning of the rainy and hurricane season, women have erected small stores where they sell necessities to other camp dwellers and sustain their families.

This is precisely what the Secretary-General meant earlier today when he said women deliver, and not just babies.

When we protect pregnant women, we will see progress beyond Millennium Development Goal 5.  When women have access to family planning, they typically have smaller, healthier families.

When women are healthy, and their rights are protected, they are more productive.  They generate income, which helps build strong communities and societies. 

And when women have control over resources, they invest more in children’s health, nutrition and education.  Such investments can break the cycle of poverty.

We need to tell people that it pays to invest in women -- that investing in the health and rights of women triggers greater progress for all.

And we must go global with this message.  Both at leadership levels and at the grassroots.  Bringing it to Governments and to international organizations, to the private sector and indeed to both women and men.

Let us build a global movement for maternal and child health.  The response to HIV is a vivid example of such a movement.  It united countries, civil society, donors and affected people. 

The maternal health movement must be focused on people and on results.

Our presence here today shows that momentum is building.  We must match this momentum with increased resources.

We are at a tipping point.  Dramatic progress is possible.  We who hold power have a special responsibility to make this push.  We owe it to the women of the world. 

This gathering is an important step towards fulfilling our ambitious agenda.  I wish you productive and engaging talks during tomorrow’s strategy sessions.

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For information media • not an official record
For information media. Not an official record.