New York

22 May 2012

Secretary-General's remarks to UN Commission on Life-saving Commodities for Women and Children [as prepared for delivery]

Last week, the United Nations issued an important report indicating that, over the past 20 years, the number of women who die from complications during pregnancy has decreased by nearly half.

This is cause for celebration.  It is a tribute to the hard work of so many people and partners.

And it is a reminder that progress is possible when we come together in common cause, with vision, clear objectives and strong and sustained backing. 

Yet we must also recognize that every day, 800 women and more than 20,000 children die from preventable causes.

Every two minutes, a woman dies at what should have been a joyful moment.

And millions of women are unable to choose if, when and how many children they would like to have because they lack access to modern contraception.

This tells me we are still not doing enough.

You know this as well as anyone.  That is why you are here today.  I commend you for joining this Commission, and for investing your time and brainpower in an effort to find new ways to address these realities.

The Commission is a critical step forward in our work to achieve the health-related Millennium Development Goals.

As part of the Every Woman Every Child movement, the Commission has the important task of identifying bottlenecks that keep women and children from receiving the medicines and supplies that can save and improve their lives.

I have seen some of these bottlenecks first-hand, from Nigeria to Ethiopia, from Bangladesh to Thailand and Indonesia.  I have journeyed to these countries to raise global awareness about this challenge and to learn from those who know best: women, children and health workers themselves.

Just last month, as you may know, I visited Mumbai. I was joined by WHO Director General Margaret Chan, UNFPA Executive Director Babatunde Osotimehin, UNAIDS Executive Director Michele Sidibe, UNICEF Deputy Executive Director Geeta Rao Gupta and my Special Envoy for Malaria, Ray Chambers.

The UN is truly working as one in this effort.

Wherever I travel, I have sought to build links with the private sector.  The innovations and contributions of business will be crucial in meeting global health challenges.

While I was in India, 65 representatives of the private sector, civil society and the philanthropic community met to discuss how to reduce the number of children who die from diarrhoea in India by increasing the use of oral rehydration salts and zinc.  Their goal and their strategy align with yours and follow-up has already begun.

As Commissioners, you have focused on 13 medicines and supplies that some women and children may not be aware of, companies may not be producing enough of, or governments may not have regulated for sale.

Your recommendations on how to remove the barriers to greater dissemination of these commodities will be instrumental in creating affordable and quality access. Even more importantly, your recommendations will lead the way to ensuring access to a much wider range of life-saving medicines and supplies.

I am grateful to all of you for working on such a tight timeline to finalize your recommendations.  I very much look forward to hearing them at the Every Woman Every Child event in September.

But let me also stress that we need you to champion the health and well-being of women and children even after that.  Your recommendations must also be applied to a much broader range of commodities that have the power save lives.

As your work clearly shows, we do not need to wait for scientific breakthroughs. We already have commodities, knowledge, interventions and policies that can prevent needless deaths.

This is our opportunity to ensure they reach the women and children who need them, now.

This is our opportunity to make a lasting contribution to economic growth and sustainable development. 

You represent the key sectors.  You are showing admirable commitment.  I am confident that, by working together, you will take us the last mile.

Thank you.