Investing in Maternal Health Can Save Lives, Says Secretary-General in Remarks to Forum on Millennium Development Goal 5

23 September 2013

Investing in Maternal Health Can Save Lives, Says Secretary-General in Remarks to Forum on Millennium Development Goal 5

23 September 2013
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Investing in Maternal Health Can Save Lives, Says Secretary-General

In Remarks to Forum on Millennium Development Goal 5


Following are UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s remarks at the High-level Forum on Accelerating MDG-5, in New York on 23 September:

One of the starkest differences between rich and poor [countries] is in rates of maternal death.  About 99 per cent of women who die in pregnancy and childbirth are from developing countries — 99 per cent.  Despite national and international commitments, millions of women and girls, especially the poor, lack access to basic reproductive health services.  These include contraception, maternity care, treatment for the complications of unsafe abortions and the prevention of sexually transmitted infections and HIV.  Every woman and adolescent girl needs the information, social support and health services for health, especially family planning.

We are making progress towards the health-related Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).  Preventing deaths and illness is possible.  And with the “Every woman, every child” movement, we know we can scale up results.  We know what works.  We do not need new science or better technologies to make a significant difference.

Achieving MDG-5 targets A and B is not expensive, especially compared to many other development commitments.  But, it requires far more resources than are currently available.  It is one of the best investments we can make — with almost incalculable returns:  We can save hundreds of thousands of lives every year; we can spare lasting injury and disability for as many as 17 million women and adolescent girls; and, we can make sure millions of babies are born healthy, with better prospects for survival and development.

I have witnessed these returns myself.  I recall visiting a birthing ward in Nigeria, where an overjoyed mother asked to name her child after me.

So why, if the returns are so high, why have we not made the investment in MDG-5?  Professor Mahmoud Fathalla, a past president of the International Federation of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists and a lifelong champion of women’s health and human rights, gave an answer in 2006.

He said:  “Women are not dying because of untreatable diseases.  They are dying because societies have yet to make the decision that their lives are worth saving:  We have not yet valued women’s lives and health highly enough.”

Today, we can decide to invest in women’s health and human rights and achieve MDG-5.  It is still possible to achieve this goal in the remaining 829 days before the MDG deadline.  With the right investments, we can make a huge difference in the lives of every woman and every child.  Thank you for your commitment.

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