Sixty-sixth World Health Assembly


Life-saving commodities

World health leaders resolve to save 6 million lives

23 MAY 2013 | GENEVA, SWITZERLAND — Delegates attending the sixty-sixth session of the World Health Assembly passed a resolution to implement the recommendations of the United Nations Commission on Life-Saving Commodities for Women and Children. Delegates committed to improve the quality, supply and delivery of 13 underused commodities, such as contraceptives, antibiotics and oral rehydration salts; streamline the process for their registration; and develop plans to increase demand and facilitate universal access to save 6 million lives over the next five years.

The resolution calls on the World Health Organization to work with countries and partners to achieve these goals. Delegates also noted progress in follow-up to the recommendations of the Commission on Information and Accountability for Women’s and Children’s Health and called on WHO to continue supporting them in the implementation of these recommendations. WHO is requested to report back to the World Health Assembly on progress of both the Commission on Information and Accountability and the Commission on Life Saving Commodities every year up to 2015.

Securing the future: Saving the lives of women and children

22 MAY 2013 | GENEVA, SWITZERLAND — Panelists addressed two overflowing rooms at Geneva’s Vieux-Bois Restaurant during a lunchtime reception on the third day of the Sixty-sixth World Health Assembly focused on increasing access to essential medicines and supplies to improve women’s and children’s health.

Hosted by the delegations of the United States of America, Norway, and Nigeria, with World Vision International and PATH, the event emphasized the impact of innovation in overcoming barriers to access. It is also addressed ongoing efforts under global initiatives, with a focus on the United Nations Commission on Life-Saving Commodities for Women and Children.

Concerted action for a bold future

Dr Flavia Bustreo, the World Health Organization’s Assistant Director-General of Family, Women's and Children's Health, remarked at the opening of her presentation that the congestion reminded her of the “rock concert” queues at the launch event for the Global Strategy for Women’s and Children’s Health during the 2010 UN Millennium Development Goals summit in New York.

“I’m delighted that three years on the same level of enthusiasm still remains,” she said.

Dr Bustreo then summarized the inspiring progress that has been made towards reaching MDGs 4 and 5, to reduce child and maternal mortality. She highlighted the importance of working together to implement the recommendations of the Commission on Life-Saving Commodities under the umbrella of the Global Strategy and Every Woman Every Child movement.

“Now is the time to concentrate and co-ordinate efforts toward a bold future,” she said.

Adapting to national and local needs

Nigeria's Minister of State for Health, Dr Muhammad Ali Pate, stated that the recommendations of the Commission on Life-Saving Commodities are being reflected in the progress already underway in his country. He advised that other leaders who share the challenge of high maternal and child mortality will need to “domesticate” the recommendations to ensure they work in their national settings.

Dr Mesfin Teklu, World Vision International’s Director of Maternal and Child Health, HIV and Infectious Diseases, said he would take this one step further and advise leaders to localize the commission’s recommendations to address the reality that maternal and child mortality is unevenly distributed within countries.

“We must target women and children in the poorest and hardest to reach communities,” he said.

He also said national plans should recognize the “role of communities as key stakeholders” and give families more control over improving their own health.

The road to results

Michael Schreiber, Managing Director of GBCHealth — a coalition of more than 230 companies working to improve the health of their workforces and communities around the world — spoke about the need to unlock the barriers to public-private partnerships.

He said to make the most of their capacity to accelerate progress on women’s and children’s health, public and private sector stakeholders will need to set better aligned, coordinated priorities through a “shared value” model.

Dr Timonthy Evans, the World Bank Group’s incoming Director for Health, Nutrition and Population, stressed the importance of birth registration and other vital statistics in order to implement “systems-wide innovations” and better understand the bigger picture of global health.

He also spoke of the importance of accepting risk as inextricably linked with innovation. He warned against a global health culture defined solely by “value for money” and called for leaders to be open to failure on the path to results.

Closing comments

Additional remarks were made following the panel discussion from the following key guests:

Dr Tore Godal, Special Adviser to the Prime Minister of Norway on Global Health, spoke of the critical importance of country leadership to bring the recommendations of the Commission on Life-Saving Commodities to scale. National leaders know what their key barriers are, he said, noting further that other stakeholders benefit by following their lead because they can provide a clear vision.

Dr Godal urged leaders to provide greater incentives to communities for women to be able to access healthcare services. “We have to be realistic,” he said. “We deal with a power structure within families and communities where women have little say.”

Princess Sarah Zeid of Jordan spoke of complications she experienced delivering her third child and her commitment to ensuring women everywhere can one day have the same quality of care that saved her life.

The benefits to implementing the recommendations of the Commission on Life-Saving Commodities would be extraordinary, she said. “With leadership, we can fundamentally change the landscape for women and children.”

PMNCH Executive Director Dr Carole Presern applauded the rising momentum for the Global Strategy for Women’s and Children’s Health and Every Woman Every Child movement.

“The fizz has definitely not gone out of the champagne,” she said. “But we need to keep our foot on the MDG pedal.” She called attention to emerging partner efforts to draft a first-ever global newborn action plan, which is expected to be released during the World Health Assembly in 2014, to address lagging progress on neonatal mortality.

Rachel Wilson, PATH Senior Director of Policy and Advocacy, reminded the audience that a resolution from the World Health Assembly to implement the recommendations of the Commission on Life-Saving Commodities would be an important, but first step.

“After passing the resolution we need to translate that change on the ground. We’re going to need your leadership when you’re back to your countries,” she said. “Civil society, providers, the media — it’s really going to take all of us.”

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