A crash course in changing the world.
With only five years left until 2015 - the deadline to achieve the UN Millennium Development Goals, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has issued a call to action to address a goal that has been lagging behind - maternal health. Gerry Adams reports:
SG 1: We are here because too many women die around the world from pregnancy or childbirth-related injuries. We are here because one preventable maternal death is still too many. Hundreds of thousands of deaths are a disgrace, a disgrace we need not tolerate.
Narrator: UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon at a press conference on Wednesday to launch the joint effort on Women's and Children's Health:
SG 2: And we are here for another reason, as well. We know women are the drivers of progress. In the poorest societies of the world, it is women who care for the children. They grow the crops, hold societies together. Women deliver - and not just babies. And if we deliver for women, we can change the world for the better.
Narrator: The joint effort on Women's and Children's Health is a multifaceted campaign to combat maternal mortality. With hundreds of thousands of women and girls dying in pregnancy or childbirth every year and 10 to 15 million more suffering long-lasting disabilities, the United Nations has outlined steps for a multi-pronged campaign to fight the scourge. Joining the Secretary-General at the launch were a number of heads of state and health professionals. President Mrisho Kikwete of Tanzania agreed with the Secretary-General that the pace toward achieving the Millennium Development Goals 4 and 5, reducing child mortality and improving maternal health, needs to be accelerated:
Kikwete 1: We need to do extra efforts in order to be able to keep pace and probably catch up so that by 2015 we will be on target. Of course we need to increase availability of resources at the national and international levels to support developing countries. We need to increase access to health care services for mothers and children. We need for us to increase health professionals.
Narrator: President Kikwete also said the availability of medicines and vaccines needs to be increased. Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg of Norway agrees and pointed out that efforts of the international community are finally paying off:
Stoltenberg 1: The good news is that there is some progress. Within the last two years, we have reduced child mortality from 9.7 million to 8.8 million each year that is almost one million less child deaths per year. And that is an important achievement. And now Lancet published new figures which are indicating that we are also making progress on maternal health.
Narrator: The good news, he says, is that we're making progress. The bad news is that we are not on track.
The progress is too slow. There is a long way to go. And it is completely unacceptable that so many children and so many mothers die because most of them die out of easily preventable causes.
Narrator: Margaret Chan, WHO Director-General, outlined some of the characteristics seen in countries that report success in achieving better maternal and child health:
Chan: Number one often times you see political commitment and leadership at heads of government and heads of state all the way to the community level giving space for civil society. That's important. Another thing we notice is these countries normally have avery good solid tested, costed, robust plan of action with good indicators to measure results on investment.
Narrator: For Secretary-General Ban, the launch is a call to action to reach the Millennium Development Goals of maternal and child health:
SG 3: Healthy mothers raise healthy children. Healthy children grow up stronger and better educated and help build more prosperous societies. And a health system that delivers for mothers and children will deliver for the wh*** community.
Narrator: United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon
A project that has been also launched to combat maternal mortality and should be mentioned: