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Mobilising for children’s and women’s health

Wednesday 24 August 2011

I recently participated in a review panel for a report assessing progress on the implementation of the UN Secretary General’s Global Strategy on Women’s and Children’s Health.

The Global Strategy has mobilised an unprecedented amount of energy and collaboration around maternal, newborn and child health.

More than 100 commitments have been made by governments, NGOs, private businesses and other organisations since the Global Strategy was launched in September 2010.

The commitments are diverse but are all in support of the Global Strategy’s goal of saving 16 million lives by 2015. Some commitments are financial (the UK government has, for example, committed to spend an additional £2.1 billion on maternal, newborn and child health by the end of 2015).

Some are about policy change (for example, Liberia and Sierra Leone have both committed to provide free healthcare).

And others focus on service delivery (such as Ethiopia’s commitment to increase the proportion of births attended by a skilled professional and the proportion of children immunised against measles).

Save the Children’s own commitment combines all of these elements – we’re going to increase the amount of money we invest in newborn and child survival; continue scaling up our advocacy work and support the training of 400,000 health workers.

Analysing commitments

As part of a process to hold governments and other organisations accountable, the Partnership on Maternal, Newborn and Child Health (PMNCH) – of which Save the Children is a member – has been conducting an analysis of Global Strategy commitments.

PMNCH’s report will shed further light on what exactly has been committed – not just by individual countries or organisations, but collectively.

This information will help communities, civil society and other interested parties keep track of whether promises to the poorest women and children are being kept and whether they are actually leading to changes on the ground. The report will also highlight gaps that urgently need to be filled.

Health workers

Strengthening health systems and expanding the number and capacities of health workers has featured prominently in many Global Strategy commitments.

This is no surprise given that health workers are absolutely essential for improving children’s and women’s health as well as for addressing major infectious diseases and other health conditions.

In the run up to the first anniversary of the Global Strategy, Save the Children and hundreds of other organisations are calling on governments to make new and stronger commitments to close the global health worker gap.

Take action

We’re calling on governments to train deploy and support more health workers and to ensure they are in reach of the poorest and most vulnerable children.

All countries – rich and poor – have a role to play. We are asking the UK government to make a difference by strengthening health workforces in countries like Liberia, Ethiopia, and Afghanistan which have some of the highest rates of maternal and child mortality in the world.

Take action today and help us show David Cameron and other leaders that health workers really do count.

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