Women and children neglected in drive for equitable health for all
IFRC Resolution and joint IFRC/PMNCH Report
29 NOVEMBER 2011 – The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) has passed a Resolution calling on member states to reduce the health inequities for women and children. The Resolution - passed at the Organization’s recent 31st International Conference - coincided with a presentation to the IFRC by PMNCH Director Dr Presern, and the joint publication with PMNCH of a special report: Eliminating health inequities: Every woman and every child counts which calls for urgent action to eliminate all health inequities.
The issue was of women's and children's health was addressed during Commission D in a panel which included the participation of PMNCH Director Carole Presern where she mentioned key initiatives including the Global Strategy for Women's and Children's Health and the Countdown to 2015. The IFRC subsequently went on to pass the Resolution: "Health inequities: reducing burden on women and children", to which you can link on the right.
"Eliminating Health Inequities: Every Woman and Every Child Counts" a joint report from the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies and The Partnership for Maternal, Newborn & Child Health (PMNCH), paints a stark picture of global health inequities. The report focuses on women and children not only because many suffer undue hardship, but also because women are instrumental in improving the health of their children, families and communities.
The report contains a set of concrete recommendations for action by different stakeholders, including government, donors and civil society, to improve access to quality care and health information, and greater gender equality. The recommendations take a holistic approach, linking health inequities to poverty, gender bias, and human rights violations, which are in turn impact on education, transport, health, agriculture and overall well-being.
Success stories of social and political action in 10 countries around the world, including Egypt, Bangladesh, Malawi, Ecuador, Afghanistan, Cameroon, Democratic Republic of Congo, Austria, Democratic People's Republic of Korea, and Eritrea, are also highlighted.
Says Dr. Carole Presern, Director of The Partnership for Maternal, Newborn & Child Health: “Political commitment is essential in overcoming the fundamental economic and social barriers that prevent so many women and children from accessing the care to which they are entitled. The Global Strategy for Women's and Children's Health, launched by the UN Secretary-General in 2010, has prompted much greater recognition that reducing maternal and child deaths and reaching the Millennium Development Goals is fundamentally a political challenge, far less a technical one. It has since been impressive to see remarkable leadership by so many countries in committing to investment and policy change to improve equity and access, in line with Global Strategy goals. We need to move still faster, and to insist on accountability for such commitments, but the human rights message is clearly resonating.”
Says Matthias Schmale, Under Secretary General of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies: “Women, mothers and adolescent girls are too often subjected to stigma and discrimination and denied access to health care. In some countries they are required to have spousal or parental permission to access health services such as sexual and reproductive healthcare. Community-based volunteers can reach the unreached by tailoring a response to their specific context. And it works even in the most unexpected places around the globe as described by the case studies featured in the report”
The Red Cross/ PMNCH report illustrates the urgency of immediate action. The most recent UN figures on maternal mortality show stark disparities in global health: In Mozambique, 550 women die per 100,000 live births due to pregnancy- and childbirth-related causes. In Iceland, just 5 women per 100,000 live births die because of these causes.
Similarly, children born in rural areas or urban slums, children born to mothers with lower levels of education, and children born to families with lower incomes fare worse than others. For example, from a selection of countries where data is available in Africa, Asia and the Americas, a child born to the wealthiest 20 per cent of households is more than twice as likely to reach the age of five compared to children born to the poorest 20 per cent of households in urban areas. In Europe, similar trends are observed: under-five mortality rates are at least 1.9 times higher among the poorest 20 per cent of households than among the richest 20 per cent.
Sadia Kaenzig, IFRC Senior adviser, Health communications, email@example.com +41792173386 (mob)
Lori McDougall, Senior Technical Officer , Policy and Advocacy, The Partnership for Maternal, Newborn & Child Health, firstname.lastname@example.org; +41-79-206-1320 (mob)