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Top 2012 Highlights in Maternal Health

As 2012 comes to a close, it’s time to celebrate progress by looking back at some of the most memorable milestones and events of the past year. New reports launched this year show that we are moving in the right direction – maternal deaths are dropping, access to family planning is on the rise, and the health of girls and women remains a global priority. Moving into 2013, we look forward to seeing you at our third global conference and continuing our work together to ensure that girls and women are at the heart of development efforts.   

Listed chronologically:

1.   New Reports Show Progress and Continued Challenges for Girls and Women Around the World (January 2012 – December 2012)

A new report released in May 2012 from the World Health Organization, UNICEF, UNFPA and the World Bank, found that maternal deaths have fallen by nearly 50 percent over the past two decades. These findings show the important impact that global investments are making in maternal and reproductive health programs around the world.

Other reports that highlighted key issues, progress, and continued challenges:

2.   Women Deliver Showcases Success at the Regional and Global Levels for Girls and Women (March 2012 – September 2012)

In honor of International Women’s Day 2012, Women Deliver celebrated the 50 most inspiring ideas and solutions that deliver for girls and women. The “Women Deliver 50” were selected from more than 500 online submissions from 103 countries, with projects ranging from advocacy campaigns, educational initiatives, health interventions, leadership programs, and new technologies.

Women Deliver followed International Women’s Day in March with the launch of the 2012 Women Deliver Regional Consultations. In partnership with regional organizations, Women Deliver held stakeholder meetings in sub-Saharan Africa (March 2012), Asia (May 2012), and Latin America and the Caribbean (June 2012). Policymakers, researchers, experts, and advocates discussed regional success stories, lessons learned and pathways for future progress in maternal and reproductive health, with a focus on the ICPD Plan of Action and MDG 5. These consultations produced key recommendations on how the post-2015 development framework can best serve each region’s girls and women, which were submitted directly to the office of the UN Secretary-General.

During the UN General Assembly in September, Women Deliver highlighted key global efforts to improve girls’ and women’s health. Jill Sheffield, president of Women Deliver, opened the Social Good Summit with a conversation about the need to invest in family planning, and she announced two new commitments to girls and women at the Clinton Global Initiative. Women Deliver also convened two high-level panels to support efforts to engage the private sector. 

  • VIEW the full list of the Women Deliver 50.
  • READ the report on the regional consultations.
  • LEARN MORE about the consultations.

3.   United Nations Adopts Landmark Resolution on Adolescents and Youth (April 2012)

At the 45th Session of the United Nations Commission on Population and Development (CPD), member states issued a bold resolution in support of young people’s sexual and reproductive health and human rights. This victory reaffirmed long-standing international agreements including the 1994 ICPD Programme of Action. Key points of the final resolution included: the right of young people to decide on all matters related to their sexuality; access to sexual and reproductive health services, including safe abortion where legal, that respect confidentiality and do not discriminate; the right of youth to comprehensive sexuality education; and protection and promotion of young people’s right to control their sexuality free from violence, discrimination and coercion.

4.   UN Commission Determines Key Recommendations for Life-Saving Commodities for Women and Children (May 2012 – September 2012)

The UN Secretary-General’s Global Strategy for Women’s and Children’s Health called on global partners to save 16 million lives by 2015 by increasing access to essential medicines and health supplies. In response, the UN Commission on Life-Saving Commodities for Women and Children was formed as part of the Every Woman Every Child campaign to help vulnerable populations access the medicines they need to live long, healthy lives. Led by Co-Chairs President Goodluck Jonathan of Nigeria and Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg of Norway, the Commission submitted a new report and set of recommendations to the UN Secretary-General in September. In particular, the Commission report highlights ways to overcome persistent barriers to the production, distribution and rational use of 13 often overlooked, life-saving commodities, including oxytocin to stop mothers bleeding after childbirth, oral rehydration salts and zinc to treat diarrhoea, and antibiotics like amoxicillin to treat pneumonia in newborns. 

  • REVIEW the report and recommendations.

5.   Child Survival Summits Calls for Renewed Global Action (June 2012)

The Child Survival Call to Action gathered 700 global leaders and experts in Washington, D.C. to strategize ways to significantly reduce the number of child who die before their fifth birthday. Convened by the governments of the United States, India, and Ethiopia and organized with UNICEF, the forum concluded with a five-point plan to focus on efforts in the 24 countries accounting for 80% of all under-5 deaths. This plan will be achieved through the Committing to Child Survival: A Promise Renewed pledge, and includes prioritizing underserved populations; addressing the top causes of child deaths; educating girls and women; and ensuring greater accountability. Given the strong linkage between maternal health and child survival, five-year milestones were developed for improving health services for mothers before, during and after childbirth.

6.   Rio+20 Rallies Reproductive Health and Rights Advocates (June 2012)

The UN Conference on Sustainable Development, also known as Rio+20, convened more than 100 Heads of State, to develop a global framework to reduce poverty, while preserving the environment. The Summit galvanized energy and commitment from women’s, youth, and environmental groups who worked to prioritize the health and well-being of girls and women. Unfortunately, the “Future We Want” outcome document from Rio+20 missed a historic opportunity to affirm the central role of women and their reproductive health and rights in global sustainable development goals. Though gender equality and, in particular, reproductive health and rights, must be a core component of any future global sustainability development framework, the conference did rally advocates across sectors to incorporate women, their needs and the importance of their empowerment, in negotiations around future development goals.

7.   London Summit on Family Planning Results in $2.6 Billion in Pledges (July 2012)

The London Summit on Family Planning was an unprecedented global event to stimulate action and resources for family planning. The Summit was hosted by the UK Department for International Development (DFID) and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation in partnership with UNFPA, national governments, donors, civil society organizations, private sector representatives, the research and development community, and many others.

Current estimates find that 222 million women worldwide have an unmet need for contraceptives. The Summit spurred increased policy commitments and $2.6 billion in pledges to increase the accessibility of family planning resources for women around the world.

  • LEARN MORE about the Summit.
  • WATCH Melinda Gates’ TEDxChange talk on contraception.

8.   The International AIDS Conference Focuses on an “AIDS-free Generation”  (July 2012)

For the first time, this year’s International AIDS Conference (IAC), held July 22-27 in Washington, D.C. was marked by discussions on the beginning of the end for the global epidemic. Under the theme “Turning the Tide Together,” the IAC drew nearly 24,000 participants from 183 countries. Many organizations discussed the intersection of maternal health, sexual and reproductive health and rights, and HIV/AIDS, with the topic of “integration” recurring as a priority issue throughout the event. At the close of the conference, participants signed an official declaration calling for multi-sectoral, right-based approaches to end AIDS-related deaths.
Women Deliver and the International Partnership for Microbicides (IPM) convened a high-level satellite event during the conference to draw attention to the linkages between HIV prevention and sexual and reproductive health and rights.

  • LEARN MORE about the Women Deliver and IPM session.
  • WATCH Michelle Bachelet’s video presentation.

9.   The First Ever International Day of the Girl and Launch of Catapult Crowdfunding Platform (October 2012)

The first-ever International Day of the Girl was commemorated on October 11, 2012 to galvanize support for efforts to better girls’ lives around the world. On this day, Women Deliver launched Catapult, the first-ever online funding platform for projects benefitting girls and women. Catapult currently features 70 projects from organizations in more than 30 countries, including a girls’ leadership initiative in Haiti, birth waiting homes for pregnant women in Sierra Leone, and an innovative literacy program utilizing mobile phones in Afghanistan. Donors are guaranteed that 100% of all funds raised will go directly to vetted projects. Only in its 10th week, Catapult has some exciting partnerships and mentions! For the months of December and January, Johnson & Johnson has generously offered to match donations made to select projects. In addition, the Bill and Melinda Gates last week picked Catapult as one of five charities that are innovative and transparent!

  • VISIT the Catapult website.

10.   Bali Global Youth Forum (December 2012)

The Global Youth Forum took place in Bali, Indonesia and brought together hundreds of young people (in addition to the 2,400+ virtual youth delegates) to participate in the ICPD+20 thematic consultation on youth. Under the leadership of young people themselves, with the support of UNFPA, the forum addressed five themes: staying healthy; education; employment and livelihood; families and well-being, including sexuality; and youth leadership and participation. The Forum aimed to identify concrete recommendations for policy makers and other stakeholders, and to address policy gaps on youth across the world.

The outcome document highlighted the importance of prioritizing young people’s sexual and reproductive health and rights, including their access to youth-friendly services and comprehensive sexuality education. Other key recommendations focused on improving young people’s access to family planning services and pre- and post-maternity care.

From all of us at Women Deliver, thank you for an amazing 2012, and we look forward to working with you in 2013 and beyond. 

Did we forget a major maternal health event or milestone? What do you think were the highlights of the year? Leave your ideas and answers in the comments below.

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