Maternal health in the spotlight during UN chief’s four-nation trip
26 MAY 2011 – Maternal health has been the focus of Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s four-nation trip this week to Côte d’Ivoire, Nigeria, Ethiopia and France.
The trips to Nigeria and Ethiopia were part of the “Every Woman, Every Child” global health effort, which Mr Ban launched in September last year during the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) summit at UN Headquarters in New York.
In Nigeria, which has one of the highest maternal mortality burdens in sub-Saharan Africa, Mr Ban visited the Maitama Hospital in country’s capital, Abuja where major improvements are being made. There he commended the Nigerian Government for investing in women's and children's health, saying the United Nations would support efforts to make communities in the West African country healthier.
“Health systems that work for women and children are health systems that work for all,” Mr Ban said, going on to praise the Nigerian authorities for integrating services for maternal, newborn and child health, with programmes on HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, malaria and nutrition.
In Ethiopia, the Secretary-General visited a rural health programme which trains young women to serve their communities’ health needs, and which is considered a model for the continent. Mr. Ban commended Ethiopia on its commitment to improve maternal and child health, including its goal of quadrupling the number of midwives. The country is a good example of how a little investment can go a long way in saving many lives, he added.
Mr Ban then traveled to Paris, France for the launch of UNESCO’s Global Partnership for Girls’ and Women’s Education, where he reflected on the progress he witnessed in Nigeria and Ethiopia and expressed faith in the power of education to save lives.
“As much as we need clinics and hospitals — money for health care and midwives — we also need education. … Educating women and girls reduces fertility. It improves productivity. And it creates a new generation of mothers who make sure they, in turn, raise educated, empowered girls.”
The last stop on his tour brought him to the Group of 8 (G8) Summit in Deauville, France, where he will continue to advocate for sustained attention to women’s and children’s health as a cornerstone of the global development agenda.