Yesterday's Commitment… Today's Action
After months of work with various stakeholders, the United Nations Secretary General launched the Global Strategy on Women”s and Children”s Health, a “roadmap’ for accelerating progress on these issues. Maternal and child health have lacked attention, political will and resources for decades, which in large part explains why the Millennium Development Goals related to these issues, 5 and 4 respectively, continue to lag the most behind. Governments, private foundations, non-governmental organizations, including CARE, and other key stakeholders made financial commitments totaling over $40 billion through 2015, as well as specific programmatic and policy commitments. In addition, governments from countries facing some of the most difficult challenges and larges health burdens spoke in support of improving maternal and child health.
I”m proud to say that CARE International has been deeply engaged in this process over the last several months, providing input and insight from our programming experience, to inform the Strategy. We pushed for (and in some cases got!) stronger language on women”s empowerment, human rights and community engagement, as these are central to the success of any plan. CARE CI committed $1.8 billion to maternal, newborn and child health through 2015. Our commitment represents funding from all donors and includes direct maternal, newborn and child health funding, as well as a percentage of funding from other sectors, such as education, emergency response and water and sanitation, which can have a critical impact on the health of women and children. It also reflects CARE”s prioritization of maternal and newborn health and our plans to expand to 30 countries (a 50 percent increase in the number of countries we”re currently in) and to reach 30 million women of reproductive age before, during and after pregnancy.
The UNSG”s Strategy was not perfect, no policy documents ever are, and I certainly heard critiques over the past several days; however, we must recognize that this is a huge step forward. We did not have global leaders talking about maternal, newborn and child health with this type of passion, knowledge and determination several years or even several months ago. Rather than focus on what was not there, we have an opportunity now to build on this momentum, move this agenda forward while we have the attention of global leaders, and really impact the lives of women, their families and their communities!
The hard work begins now. Global leaders must act on these commitments by developing concrete, country led plans and mechanisms to hold governments and other stakeholders accountable to their commitments and to really meet our collective goal of saving the lives of 16 million women and children by 2015. As part of this effort, civil society, communities, women and children, particularly the most marginalized and vulnerable populations, must be engaged, not just as the target of these efforts, but as key partners that know the barriers and what will work best in their setting to remove them. Ultimately, if the interventions don”t reflect the needs and voices of the community, they will not be successful or sustainable.
Yesterday was an historic first step… now is the time for action!