Secretary-General Says Saving Lives of Women, Children Best Investment Country Can Make, But Governments Often Miss this Common-Sense Approach

30 April 2012

Secretary-General Says Saving Lives of Women, Children Best Investment Country Can Make, But Governments Often Miss this Common-Sense Approach

30 April 2012
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Secretary-General Says Saving Lives of Women, Children Best Investment Country


Can Make, But Governments Often Miss this Common-Sense Approach


Following are UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s remarks at the reception for civil society, private sector and creative community in support of “Every Woman Every Child”, in Mumbai, 28 April:

This has been a remarkable day.  I especially want to thank my Millennium Development Goals Advocates, Mukesh Ambani and Ray Chambers, for bringing us together.  I just came from meeting with leading Bollywood and sports stars.  I should have asked them to sign some autographs!  I could have auctioned the signatures to raise money for women’s and children’s health.  Many of their films tell stories of the poor.  They reach millions of people I never could.  And they inspire action against poverty and injustice.

When it comes to HIV, human rights or sexual minorities, awareness and understanding can save lives.  These stars have fans around the world — but no bigger fan than me.  I love Bollywood movies and I love cricket — but more than that, I love the commitment of these individuals to help India and our world.  About half of the stars I met are already official United Nations Goodwill Ambassadors.  I am deeply grateful for their service.  The others are also engaged in our work.  Many are here at this incredible gathering.  We also have leaders from Government, civil society, the world of business and the United Nations.

This is the first gathering of its kind devoted to women’s and children’s health.  And here is another first:  I am joined by four health leaders from the United Nations:  Dr. [Margaret] Chan from the World Health Organization (WHO); Dr. Babatunde Osotimehin from the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA); [Michel] Sidibé from UNAIDS (Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS); and [Geeta] Rao Gupta from UNICEF (United Nations Children’s Fund).

We have different expertise, but we share the same conviction that saving women’s and children’s lives is the best investment any country can make.  If a person is ill, or their child is sick, anyone with resources would not think twice about spending them on health care.  But, somehow, Governments often miss this common-sense approach to what matters in life.

Around the world, some 8 million women and children die from preventable causes each year.  Almost 2 million of them are Indian.  I am deeply disturbed by these numbers.  But, I am also fully convinced that we can drive them down.  Today, at Cama hospital, I saw patients get treatment and find hope.  I saw happy mothers with healthy newborns.  And I saw something else — something that should give us all hope.  I saw India’s potential to save millions of other people.

Also today, I witnessed the power of business leaders to make a difference.  They have already shown that they can compete with anyone in any field in any country.  Now, forward-thinking giants of India’s private sector are focusing their remarkable talents on saving lives.

I welcome their launch of a Business Leaders Council to help India reach the Millennium Development Goals by 2015.  Many of you are here tonight.  I applaud you and I thank you.  I have high expectations for your success.

Just last month, India declared that it is polio-free.  One of the slogans in the polio campaign was, “Not a single child should be missed.”  This is the same spirit that drives our global campaign for “Every Woman Every Child”.  I launched this initiative in 2010 with the support of Prime Minister Singh and other leaders.  We wanted to mobilize action on women’s and children’s health.

Today, there are some 200 leaders behind “Every Woman Every Child”.  The Indian Government’s commitment is ambitious.  It targets the most vulnerable in the 250 districts that are home to 70 per cent of the country’s maternal and child deaths.  India is also supporting other countries.  That is real leadership — at home, in the region and around the world.

Tonight, we declare together:  no more preventable deaths of India’s women and children.  So much can happen if this dynamic and diverse group pushes hard for progress.  You can multiply the impact of each other’s work.  You can help all Indian children get the vaccines and food they need to survive.  You can ensure that all Indians have access to basic medicines.  You can protect vulnerable women from dying in childbirth.  And you can protect Indian babies from dying from diarrhoea or contracting HIV.

Today, I am pleased to announce the appointment of Dr. Prasada Rao as my new Special Envoy for HIV/AIDS for Asia Pacific.  Dr. Rao has demonstrated his strong leadership of the AIDS response for 14 years, first as the Director of India’s National AIDS Control Organization, and later as regional director of UNAIDS for Asia and the Pacific.  I am confident that as my Special Envoy, Dr. Rao, will help to achieve an HIV-free generation in the region.  I also want to thank Dr. Nafis Sadik, who has served in this role since 2002, for her outstanding contributions.

The focus on women and children is deeply important to me as Secretary-General — and also as a father and grandfather.  It happens that my daughter married an Indian citizen.  When she became pregnant, naturally I worried for her health.  She was fine because she had the care we know works.  Too many pregnant women in India have no health services.  Too many others have to walk for scores of kilometres just to reach a clinic.  And even then, too many mothers and their newborns do not survive.  That is why we need to care for every woman and every child.

As you know, here in Mumbai, there are many mothers who lull their babies to sleep in small swings.  These mothers use a string to gently rock the swing.  Earlier today, I had the honour to meet with the Chief Minister of Maharashtra.  So, please allow me to quote a famous proverb in Marathi that relates to this tradition.  “Jichya Hati Palanyachi Dori, Ti Jagala Uddhari!”  This means, “The mother who holds this swing string will change the world for the better.”

India has always valued its mothers.  India is such a large and influential country, when you charge forward, the world will advance.  You have already inspired us with success on polio.  Now, lead the way on women and children — and they will lead the way to a better future for all.  Thank you.

* *** *

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