UK Under-Secretary of State for International Development: "2008 is a turning point for Millennium Development Goals 4 & 5"

11 March 2008

11 March 2008, London -- "The first step towards integrated maternal, newborn and child health advocacy in the UK has been made today," announced Gillian Merron UK Under-Secretary of State for International Development in opening a conference on "Harnessing UK expertise in maternal, newborn and child health to achieve MDGS 4 and 5" on 6 March in London.

"2008 is a turning point in the global movement to reach MDGs 4 & 5 on child survival and maternal health, said the Minister, noting that the time is right to build on momentum ahead of the G8 Summit in Japan in July. "

"Improving maternal, newborn and child health in developing countries is a priority of the UK Government, which is in fact discussing this issue today in Parliament " Merron added. "We share your objectives," the Minister told the audience of more than 80 delegates from UK-based civil society organizations and academic institutions. The workshop was initiated by Women and Children First (WCF), a UK NGO working in Bangladesh, India, Malawi and Nepal.

The Under-Secretary was congratulated by Dr Francisco Songane, Director of the Partnership, who also stressed the crucial role of the UK as a G8 member and a leading donor nation supporting maternal, newborn and child health.

"Lack of political will and low investments globally have been the main factors driving stagnation and inadequate progress in these areas. The UK's prominent role, including the presence of the Minister at today's forum shows how politicians can lead the change," Dr Songane said.

The one day conference was organized to share experiences and build consensus among UK NGOs advocating for MDGs 4 & 5. As Ros Davies, Chief Executive of Women and Children First noted: "It is a matter of concern that there is currently no forum for UK-based NGOs working on these issues to share experiences, learn lessons and advocate for change. For this reason, WCF has decided to host a meeting for leading NGOs working on maternal and child health, in order to stimulate co-ordinated UK-based advocacy in this field."

The workshop concluded with new ways of networking for UK civil society organizations supporting global advocacy for maternal, newborn and child health and the MDGs 4 & 5.