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Tracking resources for women's and children’s health

2 February 2011 -- A newly formed Commission on Information and Accountability for Women's and Children's Health will track resources pledged to actual results. The Commission will provide evidence of which programmes are most effective in saving the lives of women and children and ensure that the money doesn't get swallowed up through inefficiency or corruption.

Transcript of the podcast

Veronica Riemer: You're listening to the WHO podcast and my name is Veronica Riemer. This week we look at the newly formed Commission on Information and Accountability for Women's and Children's Health.

The World Health Organization has established a Commission to develop an accountability framework that will link resources destined for women's and children’s health to actual results. The new body met for the first time in Geneva this week. The aim is to help countries monitor where resources go, how they are spent and improve data collection. It will provide evidence to show which programmes are most effective to save the lives of women and children and ensure that the money doesn't get swallowed up through inefficiency or corruption. WHO's Director-General Margaret Chan tells us why accountability is important.

Dr Chan: Too many woman and young children are still dying, mostly in the developing world, from entirely preventable causes. As we know from long experience, throwing money at a problem is not the answer. Strengthening health information systems in developing countries is fundamental to the success of the global strategy. Accountability requires counting. Counting the resources actually delivered and measuring the impact on health outcomes. But also counting births, deaths, illnesses, causes, and weaknesses in health systems that contribute to these causes.

Veronica Riemer: In September 2010 during the UN Summit on the Millennium Development Goals, also known as MDGs, countries and partners pledged 40 million US dollars to support a Global Strategy for Women's and Children's Health. This is part of an initiative to accelerate efforts to meet the 2015 targets on health-related MDGs. The Strategy has the potential to save the lives of more than 16 million women and children. Speaking on the occasion of the first meeting of the Commission in Geneva, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon said:

Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon: This Accountability Commission is a crucially important part of the picture. When it comes to ambitious development efforts like this, it is not enough to just collect pledges of funds. The world’s women and children need more than pledges. Commitments are wonderful, generous, but by themselves they cannot build health clinics or immunize children.

That is why we have made accountability a hallmark of the Global Strategy. We are determined to hold ourselves and everyone else involved accountable. This is how we will track how many promises are kept. Our aim is simple: to turn our Global Strategy into global action for women and children's health.

Veronica Riemer: Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper is one of the co-chairs of the Commission that will oversee how the maternal health dollars are collected and spent.

Prime Minister Harper: First of all the things we need to do. We need proper data sets. We need to identify the methods that work. We need to identify the partners who are capable, what are the real priorities as opposed to the secondary issues. That is what it is all about, getting into detail on those kinds of issues. We have an unprecedented opportunity to make a real difference in the lives of people and a real difference in the world as a consequence and nobody wants to blow it. That's why we are taking the time to get these things right.

Veronica Riemer: Mr Harper's co-chair, Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete, will head up sessions on accounting for the results of the maternal health spending. He spoke of the eight MDGs set by the UN for 2015, warning that the ones on maternal and child health are lagging far behind target.

President Jakaya Kikwete: Together Asia and Africa account for 92% of the world's deaths of under five children. These staggering statistics are a stark reminder of the enormity of the challenge facing poor developing countries.

Veronica Riemer: Dr Hamadoun Touré Secretary-General for the International Telecommunication Union and vice-chair of the Commission, explained that information and communication technologies are among the most powerful tools at our disposal to dramatically improve health for infants and their mothers.

Dr Hamadoun Touré: At the beginning of the year 2000, there were only 500 million mobile subscriptions globally and 280 million Internet users. By the beginning of this year, 2011, those numbers have mushroomed to over 5 billion mobile users and over 2 billion subscribers to the Internet. These figures show that technologies already at our disposal, such as ordinary mobile phones with simple solutions, can play an increasingly vital role in health care, as vehicles both for data collection and analysis, and for delivery of basic health services to communities.

Veronica Riemer: Two working groups of prominent experts will map out an accountability framework over the next few months. The Commission will complete its work by May 2011 which will be submitted to the World Health Assembly.

If you would like more information, please click on the link at the bottom of the transcript page. For the World Health Organization, this is Veronica Riemer in Geneva.

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