United Nations Economic and Social Council
6-9 JULY 2009
6 JULY 2009 | GENEVA - Several hundred high-level delegates attended the opening of the United Nations Economic and Social Council -ECOSOC- with leaders placing a focus on health and much attention to maternal and child health (MNCH) and non-communicable diseases. Some key messages brought forth the importance of government leadership in the provision of health to their constituents, the need for heightened investment in health in this time of crisis and the importance of partnership and a multisectoral approach in resolving health issues.
President of ECOSOC - Ambassador Sylvie Lucas
Ambassador Lucas pointed to the need for increased political engagement for the progress in health, which she highlighted as a basic human right. She also pointed to the grave inequities in access to health as an area of great concern.
United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon
H.E. Mr Ban Ki-moon reinforced the need for strengthened health systems: "Maternal health care is a barometer of how well a health system functions. If women have access to hospitals, clinics or trained community health workers, they are less likely to die in childbirth. These facilities in turn reduce the burden of illnesses and deaths from other causes".
Director General, World Health Organization Dr Margaret Chan
The Director General Dr Margaret Chan in her address pointed to the need for the world to see "health as a worthy pursuit in its own right" and the importance of work to achieve the Millennium Development Goals, despite the economic crisis. Dr Chan: "We must make the prevention and control of chronic noncommunicable diseases and the improvement of maternal health top priorities on the development agenda. Both are entirely doable undertakings. Both are part of the agenda for strengthening health systems and revitalizing primary health care. Both are fully ready and mature areas for efficient interventions with a huge return. Both are begging for more attention."
Natalie Imbruglia, Spokesperson for the Campaign to End Fistula
"Obstetric fistula was eliminated here in Europe and the United States more than 100 years ago,” says Natalie Imbruglia, spokesperson for the Campaign to End Fistula, a global effort led by UNFPA, the United Nations Population Fund. “Night and day for 12 years my life was continually put on the verge. It was like dying every day,” says 33-year-old Sarah, who eveloped fistula after a prolonged obstructed labour that left her baby dead. Today, two years after successful treatment, she is a strong maternal health advocate in local communities and at international meetings."
Other guests speakers at the opening session included Ms Cherie Blair, of the Cherie Blair Foundation for Women, and Sarah Omega Kidangasi, maternal health advocacy from Kenya.