World Health Day "Make Every Mother and Child Count"
Honourable Ministers, colleagues, ladies and gentlemen,
Thank you for joining us for this World Health Day celebration and the launch of the World Health Report for 2005. Our theme is maternal, newborn and child health. India, with its great wealth of wisdom from the past and potential for the future, is the perfect host for these events. My warmest thanks to the Government of India for their generous hospitality and valuable contributions to our work in this area.
Yesterday I saw the progress being made in recovery work in southern India since the tsunami disaster. After so much destruction and so many lives lost, it was inspiring to see homes rebuilt and mothers and children receiving the care they need.
The slogan for World Health Day is "Make every mother and child count". It is a call for radical progress in ensuring the health of women and their children. These members of society are often neglected because they are vulnerable. But wherever that happens the whole society is harmed. Today we want to make it absolutely clear to everyone that the health of women, the newborn and children are a priority for our world as a whole, and for every society, every community, and every family.
This is easy to see, and yet over half a million women die every year in pregnancy and childbirth. More than 3 million babies are stillborn. More than 4 million die during the first days and weeks of life. Altogether 10.6 million die before they are five years old, according to the latest figures obtained by WHO.
This year's World Health Report reminds us that more than 6 million of those children could be saved each year if they had access to very simple practices and health resources. These consist of: breastfeeding, oral rehydration therapy, immunization, antibiotics, antimalarial drugs, insecticide-treated bednets, vitamin A and other micronutrients, and prevention of mother-to-child transmission of HIV.
Likewise, thousands of women could be saved each year if they had access to skilled care during pregnancy and childbirth, and access to emergency obstetric care. Most of the interventions they need are simple, affordable, and highly effective.
We are not attempting to do the impossible. On the contrary, our aim is to do what is well known to be entirely possible. This approach has the potential to transform the lives of millions. Giving mothers, babies and children the care they need is an absolute imperative. An excellent first step towards doing this is to find out exactly how and why, by reading this year's World Health Report.
The health of mothers and children is part of a much bigger picture. It is the foundation of the well-being of our societies as a whole. When a mother or a child gets sick, that foundation is damaged. When children die, whole generations are weakened — the very generations whose strength we count on to overcome poverty and build a better future for all of us.
This year's World Health Report includes policy briefs on how to integrate maternal, newborn and child health services in a single continuum of care; rehabilitate the workforce; remove financial barriers to access to health care for all; and use the strength of civil society.
Five years ago, with the Millennium Declaration, the international community committed itself to reducing maternal deaths by three quarters and reducing child mortality by two thirds by 2015. We are a long way from reaching these goals, but many developing countries have made dramatic improvements. In doing so they have proved that the Millennium Goals for health are attainable.
WHO pledges to work with all its partners to give priority to maternal, newborn and child health, and to mobilize increased funding for this.
Our message today is one of hope. It is about potential waiting to be fulfilled: the surest way to meet the global challenges we face now and in the future is to "make every mother and child count".