By: Joanne Omang
WASHINGTON, June 9 – The Women Deliver 2010 conference ended here today with new energy and commitments for action for women’s health from members of parliament, young people and the rest of the more than 3,000 participants.
“My government, like most governments, will react if public pressure is applied to them,” said Dr. Keith Martin, a member of parliament in Canada, at a panel session.
Women Deliver founder and president Jill Sheffield said the three-day gathering was, in Winston Churchill’s words, “not the end, not even the beginning of the end, but perhaps the end of the beginning” in the drive to halt the global toll of women’s deaths and disabilities from pregnancy-related causes.
At least one woman dies every 90 seconds from such causes and another 20 suffer infection or disability, while four million newborns die every year. These grim numbers actually represent improvements over the last 20 years, during which many international gatherings have pledged investments in women that failed to materialize. The continuing toll devastates families and communities and deprives the world of some $15 billion a year in lost productivity, according to U.S. Agency for International Development estimates.
A comprehensive report tracking progress in maternal and child health was launched on June 8 at the Women Deliver conference. According to the Countdown to 2015 Decade Report (2000-2010), a lack of skilled attendants at birth accounts for two million preventable maternal deaths, stillbirths and newborn deaths each year, in spite of remarkable progress in some poor countries. The report argues that achieving MDGs 4 and 5 (on maternal and newborn health) is possible by the deadline year 2015, but only a dramatic acceleration of political commitment and financial investment can make it happen.
The report features country profiles from the 68 countries that account for at least 95 per cent of maternal and child deaths that include coverage data for a range of key health services, including: contraceptive use, ante- and post-natal care, skilled attendance at delivery, child health, financial investments in maternal, newborn and child health, equity of access, health systems and policy.
Conference participants from 146 countries celebrated the announcement at the gathering of $1.5 billion in new grants from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and the launch of a Joint Action Plan for women’s health by Ban Ki-moon, Secretary General of the United Nations.
“We will take our energy to the G8/G20 meeting in Canada this month, to the African Heads of State meeting, to the UN summit on the MDGs in September,” Sheffield said. “The world leaders face a planet overflowing with difficult problems. But here is one major challenge they can meet. The women of the world have delivered for their countries. Now is the time for the leaders of the world to deliver solutions for women.”
For more conference information, go to: www.womendeliver.org