The need for increased efforts to improve women’s health was highlighted during the 61st session of the WHO Regional Committee for the Western Pacific, which took place in Malaysia last week from October 11-15th. WHO Regional Director of the Pacific Shin Young-Soo, a participant at Women Deliver’s “Accelerating Action on the MDGs” brunch event during the UN summit, remarked during a pre-session press conference that “…it is absolutely shameful in this day and age that so many women in the region are dying in childbirth or pregnancy.” Each day, more than 100 women in the region die from pregnancy-related causes.
The session was attended by 21 ministers from 33 countries in the region. A discussion document was presented which urged governments to place greater emphasis on women’s health and to ensure that no woman dies during pregnancy and childbirth due to a lack of resources. WHO, National Cancer Society of Malaysia and the Malaysian Ministry of Health co-organized a breast cancer awareness luncheon in conjunction with the regional session, which highlighted Malaysia’s efforts to improve breast cancer screenings and to scale up treatment centers.
Among the outcomes from the regional session came the appointment of Papua New Guinea to represent the region on the WHO executive board. While accepting the appointment, Papua New Guinea’s Minister of Health Sasa Zibe referenced the country’s poor health indicators and that the country could well articulate the challenges of health and development at the executive board level. Papua New Guinea has been highlighted by Countdown to 2015 as one of 68 priority countries with high rates of maternal mortality.