Press Release

12 September 2005

New Partnership Promises Universal Push to Save the Lives of Women and Children

UNITED NATIONS, New York — Millions of women and children worldwide will enjoy a better chance of survival thanks to a new global initiative announced at an official side event of the 2005 World Summit. The Partnership for Maternal, Newborn & Child Health will mobilize global and local commitment and action to reduce deaths among mothers and children, promote universal coverage of essential interventions, and advocate for increased resources for these efforts.

“On the eve of the World Summit, we are gathered here today in recognition of the urgent need to support countries in helping women and children survive,” said Thoraya Ahmed Obaid, Executive Director of UNFPA, the United Nations Population Fund, during the Partnership’s launch today. “The lives of up to 7 million women, children and newborns can be saved each year if proven and cost-effective interventions are expanded to reach those in need.”

Speaking on behalf of five United Nations agencies involved in the new initiative, Ms. Obaid said: “We are committed to working together to scale up action to achieve Millennium Development Goals [MDGs] 4 and 5 to dramatically reduce child and maternal mortality by 2015. This is a major effort, and no one agency can do it alone. Commitment and partnership are essential.” The United Nations partners include: UNFPA; the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS); United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF); the World Health Organization (WHO); and the World Bank.

Estimates show that ensuring the access of women and couples to voluntary family planning could reduce maternal deaths by 20 to 35 per cent, and child deaths by as much as 20 per cent, according to Ms. Obaid. “Ensuring that pregnant women get skilled attendance in delivery, particularly access to emergency obstetric care, could also reduce maternal deaths by about 75 per cent. Ensuring exclusive breastfeeding up to 6 months of age would save 1.3 million children each year. And providing routine immunization could avert the death of over 2 million children annually.”

Yet, despite these proven interventions, said Ms. Obaid: 

  • 200 million women currently lack access to contraceptives;
  • Only 58 per cent of women in developing countries deliver with the assistance of a midwife or doctor;
  • Only 3 per cent of HIV-infected pregnant women are offered drugs to prevent transmission from mother to child;
  • Some 270 million children have no access to health care services of any kind; and
  • 27 million children have not been fully immunized in 2004.

“As multilateral partners,” said Ms. Obaid, “we pledge to support the development and implementation of national action plans to achieve the maternal and child health MDGs. We pledge to find and commit additional resources to support country programmes to deliver high and equitable coverage of effective interventions.” These interventions include programming for reproductive, maternal, newborn and child health and the strengthening of health systems.

“We also pledge to work with partners to address the critical shortages in skilled health care providers, which are exacerbated by lack of investment, migration, brain drain, and HIV and AIDS,” added Ms. Obaid. “We will also support efforts to address the social and economic deprivations that put the health and well-being of women and children at risk. It is clear that improving the health of women and children requires the empowerment of women, engagement of men, and progress towards equity and respect for human rights.”

The Partnership includes a number of countries, international organizations, non-governmental organizations, donors, academic institutions and other parties concerned with maternal and child health. The new initiative will integrate three previously existing partnerships: the Partnership for Safe Motherhood and Newborn Health, the Healthy Newborn Partnership and the Child Survival Partnership.

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UNFPA, the United Nations Population Fund, is an international development agency that promotes the right of every woman, man and child to enjoy a life of health and equal opportunity. UNFPA supports countries in using population data for policies and programmes to reduce poverty and to ensure that every pregnancy is wanted, every birth is safe, every young person is free of HIV/AIDS, and every girl and woman is treated with dignity and respect.

Contact Information:

Omar Gharzeddine
Tel.: +1 (212) 297-5028
Email: gharzeddine@unfpa.org

Micol Zarb
Tel.: +1 212 297 5042
Email: zarb@unfpa.org