A common commitment to improve the health of women and children
Dr Margaret Chan
Director-General of the World Health Organization
Dame Billie Miller, honourable ministers, Colleagues and friends,
Thank you for this opportunity to address you this morning. I am pleased to make this statement on behalf of my colleagues who lead the eight health organizations known as the H8, including WHO:
Tachi Yamada of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation;
Julian Lob-Levyt of the GAVI Alliance;
Michel Kazatchkine of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB and Malaria;
Michel Sidibe of UNAIDS;
Thoraya Obaid of UNFPA;
Tony Lake of UNICEF;
and Tamar Manuelyan Atinc of the World Bank.
We come before you in solidarity. We share a common commitment to supporting you as you seek to improve the health of women and children around the world. Your efforts and investment are paying off.
Domestic resources and donor funds are making a real difference to the lives of millions. The number of children dying before reaching their fifth birthday has been falling for several years. We are now seeing early signs of progress in reducing the number of women dying in pregnancy and child birth, in addition to the achievements in HIV, TB and malaria.
This progress is most welcome, but is fragile, uneven, inequitable and inadequate. Far too many women and children continue to die needlessly.
I wish to make four points.
First, we need unfailing commitment and leadership at all levels. From heads of state and heads of government, ministries of health, development and finance, right down to the community level. Only with this commitment can we sustain the fragile gains we have made, and make further progress.
Second, we need investment. We need more money, we need better money, and we need to find better ways of channeling funding for investment in proven cost-effective interventions and new technologies delivered through a well-functioning health system.
A health system that is adequately staffed with skilled health workers. A health system that provides universal coverage of services for reproductive, maternal and child health and removes financial and other barriers to care. A health system that has a sound health information system that measures results. Investment in these systems, interventions and technologies can come from many sources; domestic, ODA, foundations, civil society, and the private sector.
Third, we need to be smart and build synergies through an integrated approach, delivering services centered on women and children, with a focus on the vulnerable and disadvantaged. MDGs 4, 5 and 6 are interrelated and contribute to other MDGs for gender equity, education, environment, and poverty reduction. Implementing the Global Consensus for Maternal, Newborn and Child Health will bring a great return on investment and improve sustainability. In the future, countries can take pride as they graduate from receiving aid to self reliance.
Fourth, we need government leadership of inclusive partnerships at country and global levels to design, implement and monitor the commitments and promises of all stakeholders. We must measure results and hold each other accountable for our pledges and actions.
We are greatly encouraged by your leadership and by the leadership of the Secretary-General, Ban Ki Moon, and the initiative he launched in April this year to develop a Joint Action Plan for Women and Children's Health.
Allow me to emphasize the first two words of the title of this Plan: ”joint” and “action”. The Plan is being developed through a broad consultative process, so that it can reflect the commitments of all stakeholders – countries, partners, the private sector and civil society. It is not just the Secretary-General's Plan. It is our joint plan, all of us here in this room.
And it is an action plan. It calls for commitments and action from everyone. Action that we need to take right away. Action we need to take together. Only then will we make the progress we seek.