Accelerating Progress in Maternal and Newborn Health: 'H4' Agencies Present their Plan

29 September 2009
Author: UNFPA

NEW YORK — Improving maternal health and reducing newborn deaths is a complex undertaking because, among other things, it involves strengthening health systems, scaling up programmes to reach remote rural areas and marginalized populations, and ensuring that appropriate resources are committed to what some consider a ‘woman’s issue.’

It’s a task that requires considerable effort and expertise, which is why WHO, UNFPA, UNICEF and the World Bank, have committed themselves to working closely together to accelerate progress.

In a meeting Friday 25 September, the four partners, nicknamed the‘The Health 4’ or ‘H4’, presented the scope of work and the progress of their country-focused collaboration to donor partners and representatives from civil society organization and academic institutions.

During the coming years, the four agencies announced they will enhance their support to the countries with the highest maternal mortality, starting with six (Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia,  India and Nigeria), scaling up to 25 more and later covering 60 countries.

They will focus on helping countries to strengthen their health systems so that they can reduce the maternal mortality ratio by 75 per cent and achieve universal access to reproductive health, as called for by the MDG 5. The joint efforts will also contribute to reducing child mortality as called for by MDG 4.

“The momentum for accelerating progress has never been stronger,’ said Deputy Executive Director of UNFPA, Purnima Mane, at the opening of the very well attended meeting, which took place in UNFPA’s New York Headquarter. “Our challenge now is to translate this momentum at national and global levels into accelerating progress in lives saved through rapid increases of coverage of effective interventions.”

“We are making progress and enhancing our collaboration at all levels,” said Laura Laski, chief of UNFPA’s sexual and reproductive health branch, which is responsible for UNFPA’s effort in maternal health. “All four agencies are present in the 60 countries, have long standing and good relations with the governments and can help to ensure that we not only get more money for health, but also more health for the money, by harmonizing and working together.”

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