First Meeting of the Commission
Geneva, 26 January 2011 - Solid information on births, deaths and causes of death as well as a mechanism to monitor resources committed to improve the health of women and children are at the core of the work of a group of international leaders who met for the first time at WHO in Geneva.
The new time-limited UN Commission on Information and Accountability for Women's and Children's Health will create a framework to monitor global financial commitments for maternal, newborn and child health and ensure resources save as many lives as possible. The Commissioners agreed to make recommendations for an accountability framework that includes an action plan to strengthen countries' ability to collect essential data and reduce the demands for information and reporting, and improved mechanisms to report on financial resources.
In detail, the framework is expected to track results and resource flows at global and country levels. The Commissioners will identify a core set of indicators and measurement needs for women's and children's health, propose steps to improve health information and registration of vital events - births and deaths - in low income countries and explore how information technology can improve data collection and access to reliable information on investments and outcomes. A full report on the first meeting will be published shortly. The Commission will finalize its report in May 2011.
"The world's women and children need more than pledges," UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon told reporters prior to the first meeting of the Commission. He stressed that accountability is crucial to his Global Strategy for Women's and Children's Health.
President Jakaya Kikwete of Tanzania, one of the Co-Chairs of the Commission, described the scope of the challenge ahead when he pointed out that Africa has just 12 percent of the global population, but accounts for half of all maternal deaths and half the deaths of children under five.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper from Canada, the other Co-Chair, emphasized that the agreement on accountability was essential "to ensure the respect of commitments made, that the resources are spent accordingly and the desired results achieved."
WHO's Director-General, Dr Margaret Chan, explained that currently, many countries in the developing world do not have well-developed civil registration systems. "For true accountability," she emphasized, "we must be able to count every birth and every death. Countries need to know how many people are born and die each year – and why they are dying. "
The Secretary-General of the International Telecommunication Union, Dr Hamadoun Touré, said that digital technologies can bring enormous benefits to information collection, dissemination and sharing. He pointed out that "healthcare for all" could only be delivered "through cooperation and partnership between the technology and healthcare sectors."