Women Deliver features global leaders from nearly 140 countries, including advocates, UN agencies, researchers, government officials, ministers of health and finance, and first ladies.
The world’s largest conference on women’s health and empowerment in more than a decade opens on Monday, June 7, with a call to increase funding commitments for maternal, reproductive, and newborn health by US$12 billion each year. At Women Deliver 2010, more than 3,000 representatives from nearly 140 countries will highlight the urgent need to save the lives of the 350,000-500,000 women who die from pregnancy- and childbirth-related causes each year, citing new economic rationale for investing in women.
“Women deliver enormous social and economic benefits to their families, communities, and nations,” said Jill Sheffield, President of Women Deliver. “We’ve made great progress on maternal health in many areas of the world, but our leaders need to realize that this issue is at the core of global development, economic well-being, and even national security. When women survive, families—and societies—thrive.”
Women Deliver will feature UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, US Secretary of HHS Kathleen Sebelius, former President of Chile Michelle Bachelet, UNFPA Executive-Director Thoraya Obaid, WHO Director-General Margaret Chan, Melinda Gates, Arianna Huffington, Christiane Amanpour, Ashley Judd, and Christy Turlington. The attendance of the UN Secretary-General together with the heads of 5 UN agencies will be unprecedented for a non-UN conference.
The meeting’s location in Washington, DC represents the return of the United States as a strong partner in promoting global maternal and reproductive health. The conference comes at a critical moment, three weeks before the G8 Summit, where host country Canada has made it a major focus.
Cost-effective solutions to prevent maternal deaths already exist. The Guttmacher Institute and UNFPA estimate that ensuring access to modern contraception could prevent up to a third of maternal deaths. An estimated 215 million women worldwide want to avoid or delay pregnancy, but are not using effective contraceptives. Ensuring access to skilled care before, during and after pregnancy and childbirth, including emergency obstetric care, is another critically needed solution. Access to safe abortion, when and where legal, will also help to reduce maternal mortality; currently nearly 70,000 women die each year from unsafe abortion.
Governments and donors have consistently underfunded maternal and reproductive health issues. As a result, few developing countries are on track to meet Millennium Development Goal 5, which aims to reduce maternal mortality by three-quarters and ensure universal access to reproductive health by the year 2015.
Addressing the current maternal and neonatal mortality rates and massive unmet contraceptive needs with proven interventions would cost US$24 billion per year, or just US $4.50 per capita worldwide, about double the current level of investment. Such an investment would save 70 percent of the women’s lives and 44 percent of the newborn lives currently lost. Benefits would extend beyond health, to improving the stability and economic prosperity of societies and nations.
“We know what needs to be done to save women’s lives, and everyone has a stake,” said Women Deliver conference Co-Chair Dr. Fred Sai of Ghana. “We are calling on governments to double today’s investment in maternal health— a small price to pay that would yield extraordinary return. In a world of difficult problems, here is a major challenge we can rise to, and overcome.”
About Women Deliver
Women Deliver 2010 is a global conference bringing together leaders from around the world to call for action against maternal death. The conference will highlight achievements in reducing maternal mortality, breakthroughs in reproductive technology, the role of women’s health in development, and remaining obstacles to improving maternal health around the world. The conference’s 3,000 participants, including heads of state, ministers of health and leading maternal health advocates, will call on governments, donors, and multi-lateral organizations to increase their financial commitments to women and girls. For more information on Women Deliver, visit: www.womendeliver.org