UN – At a high-level gathering on the margins of the General Assembly, world leaders pledged more than US $5 billion in multi-year funding and committed to a new global Consensus for Maternal, Newborn and Child Health.
The event, Investing in Our Common Future: Healthy Women, Healthy Children, was hosted by U.K. Prime Minister Gordon Brown and Robert Zoellick, President of The World Bank. Mr. Brown and Mr. Zoellick proposed innovative measures to finance health programs for women and children in developing countries, including a significant expansion of the International Finance Facility for Immunisation (IFFIm); a second Advance Market Commitment (AMC) to fund research and development for vaccines and other health products; and a scheme enabling individuals to make "Voluntary Solidarity Contributions" when they purchase air flights and other travel products. All of these mechanisms are expected to raise over $5 billion to improve health services across the developing world.
In addition, Burundi, Ghana, Liberia, Malawi, Nepal, and Sierra Leone announced that they will expand access to health services, giving 10 million more people access to free health care. At the same time, the UK and other donors set out their commitment to support countries in scrapping health "user fees," which could ensure millions of people will be able to visit health professionals for free for services ranging from basic check-ups to life-saving treatment.
"The evidence is stark, the reality is shameful, the death toll can be counted, the pain is incalculable," said Gordon Brown in reference to the millions of children and mothers who die every year. "So today we must act together to end that pain."
The global partners represented at the meeting also agreed to a new Consensus for Maternal, Newborn and Child Health, setting out five key action steps to save the lives of more than 10 million women and children by 2015. These priority actions are: (1) political leadership and community engagement; (2) a quality package of evidence-based interventions, delivered through effective health systems; (3) the removal of barriers to access, with services ideally being free at point of use for all women and children; (4) skilled and motivated health workers, in the right place at the right time; and (5) accountability for results.
"Study after study shows that investing in women brings broad economic and social benefits," Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon told the meeting. "Devoting resources to women's health in particular is one of the smartest investments any society can make."