News

Leaders pledge to help end preventable maternal, newborn and child deaths within a generation

26 September 2014
Author: UNFPA
Munira Sha'ban, a renowned Jordanian midwife, speaks at a high-level UN event on improving the survival of women, newborns and children. Beside her are Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon, Chinese diplomacy leader Li Xiaolin, and Special Envoy for Financing the Health Millennium Development Goals and For Malaria Ray Chambers. Photo credit: Stuart Ramson/UN Foundation
Munira Sha'ban, a renowned Jordanian midwife, speaks at a high-level UN event on improving the survival of women, newborns and children. Beside her are Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon, Chinese diplomacy leader Li Xiaolin, and Special Envoy for Financing the Health Millennium Development Goals and For Malaria Ray Chambers. Photo credit: Stuart Ramson/UN Foundation

UNITED NATIONS, New York – By improving access to essential sexual and reproductive health services including voluntary family planning and safe delivery care preventable maternal, newborn and child deaths could be eliminated within a generation. This was the central message of a high-level event hosted by United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon at UN Headquarters yesterday, where donors pledged hundreds of millions of dollars in support of the Every Woman Every Child movement.

In particular, empowering women and girls to make their own healthcare decisions could save the lives of countless mothers, newborns and children, the assembled leaders said.

“When the individual is capable of making their own decisions… you get totally different development for women and children,” Prime Minister of Norway Erna Solberg told the dignitaries, leaders and health experts assembled at the event.

UNFPA Executive Director Dr. Babatunde Osotimehin speaks about partnering to advance the health of women, newborns and children. Photo credit: Stuart Ramson/UN Foundation

Watching change take hold

Munira Sha’ban, a nurse, midwife and famous maternal health advocate from Jordan, gave a first-hand account of how access to reproductive health information and services changes the lives of women and their families.

“Two years ago, UNFPA asked me to work with Syrian refugees as the first midwife in the Zaatari camp,” she said. “Working through the Jordan Health Aid, I first noticed that a large number of these refugees did not believe in family planning and that there were multiple cases of early marriage.”

Women who are unable to make choices about the size and spacing of their families face a variety of health risks. And girls subjected to child marriage are particularly vulnerable: complications in pregnancy and childbirth are a leading cause of death among adolescent girls in developing countries.

Yet in many places around the world, family planning is still not accepted.

“I deliver babies, of course,” Ms. Sha’ban said, “but I also raise awareness about maternal health and family planning at villages, camps and schools. I also educate families, particularly men, about the consequences of forced and early marriage.

“Now, after two years, I noticed a change: Women are starting to space their pregnancies and use contraceptives, and more and more men are better informed, and accept family planning. Also, fewer early marriages are taking place.”

Girls’ rights key

“Together, we have achieved a lot,” Ms. Sha’ban told the audience. “However, we still have a long road ahead of us. This includes more awareness about reproductive health and rights.”

Girls’ needs and rights will also be critical in this effort, emphasized Graça Machel, a humanitarian leader and former first lady of both Mozambique and South Africa.

When girls are empowered – through education, reproductive health information and services, and recognition of their equal rights and potential – they are healthier, and their future children are more likely to survive and thrive.

“We are sowing the seeds of social change when we focus on girls,” Ms. Machel said.

Answering the call

President of Tanzania Jakaya Kikwete called for greater investment in women’s and children’s health.

“I strongly believe that financing women’s and children’s health is an investment and not an expenditure,” Mr. Kikwete said. “It should and must be at the core on any development ambition. Most important, it is a human and a moral imperative. Doing otherwise is a disservice and a great loss to humanity.”

Partners present answered this call to action. World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim announced the Global Financing Facility (GFF), “a mechanism to leverage financing at a rate of four to one” for programmes improving the health of women, newborns and children.

Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, Administrator of the United States Agency for International Development Rajiv Shah, and Ms. Solberg together pledged hundreds of millions of dollars toward the GFF.

“For the first time ever, we have the opportunity to end all preventable deaths of women and children within a generation,” said Mr. Ban. But, he added, “this success depends on us all working together.”

 

Related content

Video
In remarks for “Bodily Autonomy and SRHR for Generation Equality: What Kind of Leadership is Needed?” at the 65th session of the Commission of the Status of Women, UNFPA Executive Director Dr. Natalia Kanem emphasized the importance of women’s and girls’ right to make decisions...
Video
Statement of the Executive Director to the High-Level Segment of the Human Rights Council
Video

  

Pages

We use cookies and other identifiers to help improve your online experience. By using our website you agree to this. To learn more, including how to change your settings, see our cookies policy.

X