Maternal, newborn, child and adolescent health

Accelerating progress on women's and children's health

High-level meeting at the Sixty-eighth Session of the UN General Assembly

Leading figures from Member States came together with representatives of civil society groups and multilateral institutions during the 68th UN General Assembly to discuss ways to accelerate progress on women's and children's health by the 2015 MDG-deadline and beyond.

Speakers highlighted the advances some countries have made in increasing investment in maternal and child health, training health workers, and scaling up interventions such as immunization, treatment of childhood illnesses, malaria control and prevention and treatment of HIV.

The Deputy Secretary-General, Jan Eliasson, highlighted the cross-sectoral nature of the challenges ahead in women's and children's health. The ambitious goals will not be met without addressing education, poverty, and environmental issues such as water and sanitation.

But all agreed with His Excellency Mr Jakaya Kikwete, President of the United Republic of Tanzania, that "Too many children are still dying. We want to get to zero." The Right Honourable Stephen Harper, Prime Minister of Canada, stressed: "It is imperative that we don't resign ourselves to incompletion. We must push strongly towards the MDGs. These goals are vital."

Melinda Gates, Co-Chair and Trustee, The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and Dr Margaret Chan, Director-General, WHO joined other speakers in highlighting the importance of investing in girls' education so women can work, and feed and educate their own children. They emphasized the need to scale up access to the essential medicines and technologies recommended by the UN Commission on Life-Saving Commodities for Women and Children, including those for family planning.

Universal health coverage has the potential to eliminate the inequities in access to services that make poorer women and children so much more vulnerable. And they underscored the need to address issues such as early marriage and violence against women.

Almost all speakers referred to the need to register all births and deaths and improve information systems. Civil registration, speakers insisted, is a basic human right. It is also key to knowing when and why mothers and children die, so that countries know what the problems are and where they need to invest resources to end preventable maternal and child deaths.