New York

06 May 2013

Secretary-General's remarks on Meeting the Challenges of the Health MDGs and Beyond

Before turning to the subject at hand, let me once [again] express my deepest and sincere condolences to the Government and people of Bangladesh on the loss of lives from the recent garment factory tragedy.  The United Nations stands ready to work with you to address the issues that this very sad incident has raised.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Almost exactly one month ago, the world marked 1,000 days to the deadline for the Millennium Development Goals. 

We have made much progress.  But time is passing and we must urgently accelerate our work.

That takes commitment, political will and a determination to focus efforts on where they can have the biggest impact.

That is one reason I have made improving the health of women and children a priority.

We know that investing in women’s and children's health yields high and long-lasting returns – for individuals … for families … for societies … and for the future we want.

I am especially glad to see the International Centre for Diarrhoeal Disease Research, Bangladesh, among the driving forces of this effort.

Two years ago I visited Bangladesh as a part of a health tour and had the privilege of visiting “ICCDR,B” in Dhaka and in rural parts of the country.

It was amazing and inspirational.  I will never forget the mothers and children we met at a Nutrition Rehabilitation Unit. 

They had been malnourished -- some of them at the brink of death when they were taken in.  

If they had been discharged after treatment, they could have died. 

Instead, they were given a low-cost and nutritious diet that included locally available ingredients and essential micronutrients until they were strong.

I also visited a rural clinic and saw the commitment of the whole community to improving health for women and children.  I saw young girls who were learning about preventing unwanted pregnancies and early marriage.  I spoke with health workers and representatives.  And I joined an education session for pregnant and lactating women. 

I learned much about the details of Bangladesh’s progress towards the MDGs.  But what I learned most of all is that Bangladesh takes partnerships for health very seriously.

It is partnerships like these that have helped save lives around the world. 

Since 1990 the mortality rate for children under the age of five has plummeted by nearly half.

Maternal death has fallen by 40 percent.  Many more children are enrolled in school.  Over 2 billion more people in the world have gained access to drinking water. 

But much more remains to be done.

Every two minutes a woman dies in pregnancy or childbirth and 200 million women and girls do not have access to the family planning services they need.

19,000 children under-five still die every day from largely preventable causes.

Malnutrition is the underlying cause of 3 million child deaths.

Around the world, millions of people are dying as a result of infectious diseases.  

If we want to see women and children survive and thrive, we must address inequalities and reach the most vulnerable in poor and underserved areas.

We have the technology and know-how to save and improve women’s and children’s lives – and we need to join our good ideas and efforts. 

The Every Woman Every Child movement is a pioneering example of how to do it.

It brings together governments, the United Nations and multilateral organizations, civil society, non-governmental organizations, the private sector and the academic and research community.

The movement was instrumental in creating the Commission on Life-Saving Commodities for Women and Children to reduce barriers that block access to essential health commodities. This includes commodities for pneumonia and diarrhea.

And more than 170 countries and hundreds of civil society and faith-based leaders have pledged their support to child survival.

I commend Bangladesh on its progress towards all the health MDGs, in particular MDG 4 on child mortality. 

I urge “ICDDR,B” and the government of Bangladesh to continue its efforts,  share lessons learned and continue to innovate and partner to find sustainable solutions to our most pressing global health challenges.

Thank you for being leaders in global health – leaders that can change the health of millions of people – and the future for us all.

Thank you very much.