Countdown starts to count

Cape Town 17 April 2008 - The Countdown to 2015 has begun with some 400 delegates from across the world coming together at the 2008 Countdown Conference in Cape Town . "We have only six years and 289 days left before then target date, " pointed out the Deputy of the UN Population Fund, Purnima Mane. "And failure is just not an option. Together, let us countdown to success--a world where women and children live and where all of us can say with conviction that we did everything we could to ensure that this happens."

The delegates--including ministers of health from Burundi, Central African Republic, Guatemala, Laos, Malawi, Mali, Mozambique, Swaziland, Yemen, Chad, Sierra Leone, Zimbabwe, Zambia-- heard repeatedly that progress is being made in some countries and some programmes, but more can and must be done.

"10 million who die from perfectly preventable and treatable causes. That is 25 0000 women and children losing their lives unnecessarily every day, " UNICEF South Africa representative in South Africa, Macharia Kamau told the delegates.

The opening session welcomed delegates from the health community, government leaders and parliamentarians and highlighted their role in saving maternal, newborn and child lives, and the role of Countdown partners in saving those lives.


Ambassador Dr Gertrude Mongella, President of the Pan-African Parliament
Ambassador Dr Gertrude Mongella

Ambassador Dr Mongella referred to her speech to hundreds of the world parliamentarians at the Inter-Parliamentary Union the previous day: "I told them that parliamentarians and governments must lead the way. We parliamentarians consider ourselves appointed as good-will ambassadors. There are 45 thousand parliamentarians globally. If we all beat that drum--for maternal, newborn and child survival--the budgets would change. The time is over for talking. We need action."

Mrs. Sarah Brown, wife of the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom
Sarah Brown

(in a message read by Catherine Taylor] of the White Ribbon Alliance)

" The smart politician knows that involving the people in policy making and being responsive to their needs is the driver of improvements in the capacity, competence and performance of health systems, whether public or private. And the smart politician does this because she knows an essential truth – improving performance on health is a vote winner. Seven million mothers, babies and children will die of avoidable causes by this time next year. Let us put an end to failure. Let us ensure that the international development community, backed by the G8 and United Nations, fund in-country advocacy for better mother and child health - perhaps the greatest gift our generation can pass to the next."

Minister of Health of South Africa, H.E. Dr Mantombazana Tshabalala-Msimang
 Minister of Health of South Africa, H.E.  Dr Mantombazana Tshabalala-Msimang

The challenges of inequities between the north and the south continue to undermine the wellbeing of our populations particularly women and children. It is necessary that this conference calls for a fair trade arrangement as highlighted in the Doha discussions particularly with regard to opening the market for African farmers. The situation where a cow in the European Union enjoys a higher subsidy than the incomes of more than half the world's population at $2.20 a day cannot be allowed to continue.

Dr Francisco Songane

"Our task is to take the findings of the Countdown report and translate them into action. We must work with those who hold power in countries (both rich and poor), who have the courage to make the decisions to challenge the status quo, and to guide the transformation processes necessary to accelerate progress towards the MDGs. Let us marshal a dynamic that will fast track the changes required to ensure that the world will deliver on its promise to improve the lives of all mothers, newborn and children

Yvonne Chaka Chaka
Yvonne Chaka Chaka

"Let's do it for the sake of our children, for the sake of women everywhere. Women are an ocean, nurturing and strong. When this campaign begins, you can rely on me. This is a war we must win!"

Speeches available