UN Launches World Campaign to Save 16 Million Mothers and Children

WNN Features
in partnership with The Guardian Global Development Network /AP

Amnesty International maternal mortality clock billboard, New York, US
Amnesty International maternal mortality clock billboard in New York shows an estimated 8 million children die each year before the age of 5 and 350,000 women die during pregnancy or childbirth. Image: Manan Vatsyayana

A worldwide campaign to save the lives of 16 million mothers and children over the next five years will be launched by the UN secretary general, Ban Ki-moon, today with around $40bn already pledged by governments and private aid groups.

The global strategy for women’s and children’s health is to be announced at the end of the three-day summit reviewing progress on the eight millennium development goals. These include halving extreme poverty, ensuring universal primary education, halting and reversing the HIV/Aids pandemic, and reducing child mortality by two-thirds and maternal mortality by three quarters by 2015.

“Women and children play a crucial role in development,” Ban said in a statement. “Investing in their health is not only the right thing to do – it also builds stable, peaceful and productive societies.”

Ban has made the reduction of maternal and child deaths a personal campaign, and it has been a key topic during the UN summit in New York. An estimated 8 million children die a year before reaching their 5th birthday, and about 350,000 women die during pregnancy or childbirth.

Even before the details were announced, Oxfam expressed scepticism about how much money was truly new, and how the strategy would be administered and held accountable.

That kind of money would go a long way toward reaching the child and maternal health goals, but we have a big concern,” said a spokeswoman, Emma Seery. “Where will that money come from?”

“Half of the donors cut their aid last year” amid the global economic crisis, she said. “We’re just nervous that it will be governments bringing together a lot of previous commitments, and that won’t mean much for poor people.”

The U.S. Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, was expected at the afternoon Every Woman, Every Child event, along with world leaders including the Chinese premier, Wen Jiabao, the Rwandan president, Paul Kagame, and the prime ministers of Ethiopia, Norway, and Tanzania. Melinda Gates of the Gates Foundation was also on the advance roster of speakers.

The World Health Organisation’s partnership for maternal, newborn and child health has been working with Ban’s office on the strategy in recent months.

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