Press Release: Report from the UN Commission on Life-Saving Commodities for Women and Children

UNITED NATIONS, New York, 26 September 2012 – A new plan and set of recommendations to improve the supply and access of life-saving health supplies was submitted today to the UN Secretary-General by the members of the United Nations Commission on Life-Saving Commodities for Women and Children.

The Commission is part of the Every Woman Every Child movement and was formed to support the UN Secretary-General’s Global Strategy for Women’s and Children’s Health, with the aim of ending the suffering of women and children around the world caused by lack of access to life-saving commodities. The Secretary-General called on the global community to work together to save 16 million lives by 2015. The Commission seeks to meet this challenge by improving access and use of essential medicines, medical devices and health supplies that effectively address causes of death during pregnancy, childbirth and into childhood.

President Goodluck Jonathan of Nigeria and Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg of Norway, who co-chair the Commission, expressed their continued commitment to improving access to these supplies. Other commissioners, as well as UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake and UNFPA Executive Director Babatunde Osotimehin, who serve as Commission vice-chairs, echoed the call to action.

“I am pleased to see the Commission’s work presented here today and am committed to seeing these important recommendations implemented at country level, where they will impact millions of lives,” said President Goodluck Jonathan of Nigeria. “As co-chair of this important Commission, I will be hosting a meeting in Abuja later this year to discuss with ministers from other countries how we will rapidly translate this work into tangible action for women and children.”

“In spite of promising decline in maternal and child mortality with around 40 percent since 1990, the fact that the day a woman gives birth is still the most dangerous day in her and her child’s life is unacceptable,” said Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg of Norway. “The Commission’s recommendations are concrete and represent highly cost effective interventions.”

The recommended steps include bulk buying, local manufacturing and innovative marketing to help transform the supply, demand and use of quality life-saving products. It is estimated that hundreds of thousands of women and children’s lives could be saved each year with essential supplies, including for family planning. Medicines for the prevention of bleeding after childbirth and treatment of diarrhoea and pneumonia such as oral rehydration solution and zinc and amoxicillin – which cost less than 50 cents per treatment -- can make the difference between life and death for mothers and their babies.

“It is simply wrong that millions of children and women still die every year when we have the products and the knowledge to save their lives,” said UNICEF Executive Director  Anthony Lake. “With the Commission’s help, we have still more practical solutions. What is needed now is the political will to implement them.”

As a result of better planning, increased financial resources, bulk buying, and joint procurement, the availability of long-lasting insecticide-treated bed nets (LLINs) in sub-Saharan Africa has shot up from 5.6 million in 2004 to 145 million in 2010 and contributed to a substantial reduction in malarial deaths on the continent.

“We are committed to increasing support to the implementation of the recommendations of the Commission, especially regarding maternal health and family planning,” said UNFPA Executive Director, Dr. Babatunde Osotimehin. “Access to voluntary family planning saves lives. We have to make sure that all women and girls have access to the reproductive health services and supplies they want and need. This is not only a matter of human rights, but also a matter of life and death. Moreover, healthier women and girls have more chances of fulfilling their potential and becoming more productive citizens.”

The Commission examined 13 medicines and health supplies, focusing on 50 countries with high death rates among women, newborns, and children under five due to preventable causes.

During the event, President Bill Clinton, founder of the William J. Clinton Foundation and 42nd President of the United States, delivered remarks in support of the commission’s work.

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