Last year, at the G8 in Japan, the leaders of the world paid attention to maternal health. They recognized that saving women’s lives was a great investment in the social and economic well-being of the world. But this year, it’s a different story. After more than 20 years in safe motherhood, we wish that progress was obvious, and we wish it was quicker, bigger, earlier. We admit that we have a tight focus on the set of issues that should be addressed – and agreed on by the community of the UN – that the Millennium Development Goals must be met by 2015.
Still, this year, the focus has been predominantly on the global climate and the economic crisis. These are critical issues of course, but improving maternal health is key to solving these crises.
We are thrilled that President Obama has enlisted the G8 members to find the $15 billion needed to help with farmers and the food crisis. It is just as important to save 10 million women’s lives EVERY generation from death in childbirth and pregnancy. Yes, it happens every minute. But dying while giving life is easy to change. We know that the world loses $15 billion every year due to the death and disability of women in pregnancy and childbirth. We also know that $10 billion additional per year will repair this shortfall. It’s a truly worthy investment. To save mothers and their newborns, we know what we need to do. We know how to do it. We simply have to decide to DO IT!
We need a new convergence of belief and will in the idea that investing in women is a good thing… because IT PAYS! Women in Africa move 60% of all goods – in their arms or on their heads. 90% of the rice production in Asia is done by women. And 80% of all the food consumed in Africa is produced by the African farmer – and HER husband.
The final G8 statement shows some progress. But it is not enough. How do we measure a successful Summit? One way is to follow through on promises made to forge progress on the world’s most pressing problems. The extraordinarily high – and unacceptable – level of women’s death in giving life is one pressing problem that has not diminished – and there are too many words, many promises and too little action.
You can find in the ‘G8 Declaration: Responsible Leadership for a Sustainable Future’ just issued, in paragraphs 120 – 124, a recognition of the growing support for the global consensus on maternal, newborn and child health. There are obstacles and significant challenges to be sure, but we are making progress and the strategies are known. They got it right: It takes political and community will and leadership, effective interventions, a system that supports the work, removal of barriers to access, skilled health workers and accountability for results. We can do this – and in partnerships between public and private groups, between governments and non governmental organizations and inter-governmental agencies.
We have the roadmap. It’s time to deliver.