New York

23 September 2013

Secretary-General's remarks at High-Level Forum on Accelerating MDG-5

It is a great pleasure to participate in this very important occasion, to evaluate and assess the progress of the MDGs, particularly MDG-5.

One of the starkest differences between rich and poor [countries] is in rates of maternal death.

About 99 percent of women who die in pregnancy and childbirth are from developing countries - 99 percent.

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.

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, and I quote: “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.”

End of quote.

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.