By: Michel Sidibé; Originally posted on Huffington Post Impact
The past two years have been significant for women's and children's health for many reasons. The unprecedented global momentum towards saving the lives of 16 million women and children generated by the Every Woman Every Child movement is among the most remarkable.
By September 25th of this year, it is projected that more than 250 organizations, including more than 73 governments, will have made commitments to advance the Global Strategy for Women's and Children's Health in support of Every Woman Every Child. To date, financial commitments total nearly US $58 billion. Numerous commitments have been implemented and enhanced, new partners have come on board, funding has been increased, policies improved and services strengthened on the ground. At least US $10 billion of this money has been disbursed as of 2012.
Since the launch of Every Woman Every Child, world leaders have demonstrated extraordinary leadership and commitment. They have stepped up and stood strong for critical issues on the women's and children's health agenda to advance the health Millennium Development Goals and ensure the sustainability of results beyond 2015. Most of all, they have engaged in a radical paradigm shift that places the notion of global solidarity at the core of our work.
Doing business as usual is no longer an option in a world in crisis with an ever increasing demand on limited resources. We are moving away from the usual donor/recipient model to one of shared responsibility. We have learnt to stop working in silos and to leverage our respective strengths. We look for and find more affordable and more effective ways of doing things but above all, we are no longer addressing just a disease or a technical problem -- we are looking at the people, the women who are the backbone of our societies and our economies and the transformative force that they represent.
As part of the movement for women and children's health that was started with the Every Woman Every Child campaign, in 2011 I, with my co-chair Ambassador Eric Goosby who serves as the United States Global AIDS Coordinator, launched a global plan towards the elimination of new HIV infections among children by 2015 and keeping their mothers alive. The Global Plan brings together an unprecedented number of partners representing international organizations, civil society organizations, the private sector, regional bodies and United Nations organizations.
By agreeing to work together along the shared responsibility and global solidarity paradigm, and by focusing on the 22 countries with the highest estimated numbers of pregnant women living with HIV, we have been able to produce concrete results. National plans are underway with renewed vigor and energy. Among the 21 priority countries in sub-Saharan Africa, the estimated number of children newly infected with HIV fell by 25 percent, from 360 000 in 2009 to 270 000 in 2011. Even beyond the high burden countries, progress is being made. An estimated 35 percent of pregnant women in low and middle income countries received an HIV test in 2010, up from 7 percent in 2005. And by 2011, 57 percent of pregnant women living with HIV were receiving effective antiretroviral regimens to prevent new infections among children.
These achievements deserve global attention. First, because the models of coordination and partnership in Every Woman Every Child and in the Global plan towards the elimination of new HIV infections among children by 2015, can be used as a standard and inspiration for mobilizing impactful action around large-scale global challenges. Second, because it gives hope for success and reminds us what is at stake, and that we have the power to save lives.
Along with this remarkable progress is the sense that these achievements need to be sustained; more work remains to be done as we approach 2015 to accelerate the rate of decline in child and maternal mortality. Rhetoric must be turned into reality. We must accelerate the pace of implementation -- the current rate of progress is still insufficient to reach our goal for 2015, so we are calling on new and old partners to do more.
As we enter into the week of the United Nations General Assembly, when world leaders will once again gather in New York to discuss global challenges, I am full of optimism and great confidence. It is an exciting time to be working in global health. The fact that we are close to achieving the Millennium Development Goals in some parts of the world is an eloquent sign of hope for the future. New progress on women's and children's health will only add to this sense of drive and purpose.
Flickr photograph via DFID - UK Department for International Development.