Urgent investment in the health of mothers and children: The “best buy” for long term development in Asia and the Pacific
21 MAY 2009 | GENEVA - Despite decades of rapid economic growth, the Asia and the Pacific region accounts for nearly half of the global burden in maternal, newborn and child health. But countries can achieve long term health and economic outcomes by investing as little as US$3 to US$12 additionally per mother or a child in a year, according to a new publication by global partners.
The publication titled, Investing in Maternal, Newborn and Child Health - the Case for Asia and the Pacific, recommends that governments and their development partners increase and improve investments in health, especially during the current global economic crisis, to result in social and economic growth, to protect the poor, increase social inclusiveness, and strengthen often fragile health systems.
"Now more than ever, it is critical to ensure increased and more predictable international development assistance for maternal, newborn and child health," said Dr Flavia Bustreo, Acting Head of the Secretariat of the global Partnership for Maternal, Newborn & Child Health. The World Bank estimates that 200 000 - 400 000 more children will die each year if the global economic crisis continues.
The publication puts forward a strong argument for much increased government expenditure on health. Such expenditure is often very low in the region, and what little is spent is often paid directly "out of pocket" by poor people, resulting in further impoverishment. More than 78 million people fell below the absolute poverty line in the region as a result of health care expenditures.
Some examples from the region demonstrate the return over investment can be achieved in primary health. "Resulting from strong government commitment and cooperation with international partners, Nepal has achieved remarkable gains in reducing child mortality by more than 45% and maternal mortality by 50% in the last ten years since 1996,” said Dr Pradhan Y.V, Chief, Policy Planning and International Cooperation Division, Ministry of Health, Nepal.
The Asia Pacific region is responsible for 56% of the deaths of newborn babies, 41% of children under five deaths, and more than 44% of women that die from maternal complications. Unless urgent investments are made, less than half of the regional countries are not likely to achieve Millennium Development Goal (MDG) 4 to reduce child deaths and MDG 5 to improve maternal health.
"Basing on the evidence of the investment case, we can say that countries can choose from the menu of "best buys" to invest in core, expanded and comprehensive packages of essential interventions that cost as little as US$3 per capita. By investing in the comprehensive package costing between US$8-12 per capita, per year, the countries should be able to achieve the MDGs 4 & 5 by 2015", said Ian Pett, Chief Health Systems and Strategic Planning, UNICEF.
Global partners and donors in the region are working to develop better evidence and policies and to increase funding for maternal, newborn and child health. “The Government of Australia is spending at least A$250 million over the next four years to improve women’s and children’s health in the Asia-Pacific region and strengthen national health systems. An example is Australia’s support of A$49 million over four years to the Australia Indonesia Partnership for Maternal and Neonatal Health” said Australian Government representative, Dr Neil McFarlane, Counsellor (Development), AusAID.
Investing in Maternal, Newborn and Child Health - the Case for Asia and the Pacific presents the most recent analysis from experts of ten partnering agencies: The Asian Development Bank (ADB), the Australian Agency for International Development (AusAID); Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation; Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA); The Partnership For Maternal Newborn & Child Health (PMNCH); UNFPA; UNICEF; United States Agency for International Development (USAID); World Bank; and the World Health Organization (WHO).
For more information, please contact:
The Partnership for Maternal, Newborn and Child Health
Telephone: +41 22 791 1073
Mobile: +41 76 494 32 39