New partnership to save lives of women and childen

Posted: 13 September 2005

A new global initiative which could help save the lives of millions of women and children was announced in New York today as 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 UN Population Fund. "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."

She said the agencies involved 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. The UN 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.

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."

Dangerous births

Yet, despite these proven interventions:

  • 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 find and commit additional resources to support country programmes to deliver high and equitable coverage of effective interventions." These include reproductive, maternal, newborn and child health services 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. She said it was also 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.

    See also: UNFPA