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Promising Steps Toward International Women’s Health

By: Cecile Richards, President of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, originally posted on The Huffington Post

While the World Cup has united people around TV sets across the world over the past weeks, another more radical act of global unity took place. This past weekend the world's leading governments came together and talked about women. For the first time the Group of 8's annual summit, which took place in Canada's tourist and wine region of Muskoka, Ontario, elevated the importance of women and girls on the world stage by making maternal and child health the flagship commitment of its development agenda. This new commitment to women and children rightly aims to broadly address these health needs, and includes family planning among the essential health interventions for women.

G8 Communiqué Commits to Maternal Health, Child Health, and Family Planning; Safe Abortion Absent

By: Janna Oberdorf, Communications Manager for Women Deliver

The G8 leaders have released their communiqué, the consensus reached during the last two days of discussions. As we’ve blogged about over the past days, Canada placed maternal and child health at the forefront of the G8 discussion. As the communiqué states:

“Progress towards MDG 5, improving maternal health, has been unacceptably slow. Although recent data suggests maternal mortality has been declining, hundreds of thousands of women still lose their lives every year, or suffer injury, from causes related to pregnancy and childbirth. Much of this could be prevented with better access to strengthened health systems, and sexual and reproductive health care and services, including voluntary family planning. Progress on MDG 4, reducing child mortality, is also too slow. Nearly 9 million children die each year before their fifth birthday. These deaths profoundly concern us and underscore the need for urgent collective action. We reaffirm our strong support to significantly reduce the number of maternal, newborn and under five child deaths as a matter of immediate humanitarian and development concern. Action is required on all factors that affect the health of women and children. This includes addressing gender inequality, ensuring women’s and children’s rights and improving education for women and girls."

Read more...

The Numbers Game: The G8 Commits $5 Billion

By: Janna Oberdorf, Communications Manager for Women Deliver

Following up on Canada’s pledge of $1.1 billion of new money over five years, the G8 countries pledge a total of $5 billion. Bolstered by another $2.3 billion from six non-G8 countries, the Gates Foundation, and the UN Foundation, that brings the total contributions to maternal and child health to $7.3 billion.

“Some countries pledged relatively more than others, at least relative to the size of their economies,” said Prime Minister Stephen Harper. “Obviously the differences in pledges have to do with differences in priorities, but also differences in financial situations.”

Oh Canada! It’s Good News for Maternal Health

By: Janna Oberdorf, Communications Manager for Women Deliver

Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper committed $1.1 billion in new spending over five years for maternal and child health programs in poor countries, bringing total spending to almost $3 billion, today at the G8 summit.

Canada already devotes $1.75 billion for existing programs to maternal health over the next five years, meaning the additional funds will bring the total mix of new and existing funds to $2.85-billion.

LIVE BLOG: Follow Along as We Liveblog the G8/G20

Click through to follow the liveblog updates!

Accountability a Key Issue for the G8/G20 and Beyond

By: Janna Oberdorf, Communications Manager for Women Deliver

“You need to keep your doors open to speak to us. You are accountable to the people who elected you,” Lysa John from the Global Call to Action Against Poverty (GCAP) told the leaders of the G8 at a press conference for the Make Poverty History campaign this morning.

Accountability is a key issue in both this year’s G8/G20 summits, and in the larger context of providing the essential services to all women in developing countries to meet MDG5 by 2015. In order to truly reduce maternal deaths, governments need to follow through on the promises they’ve made at previous international and national summits. As civil society, we need to keep watch. Governments and the international community must commit to developing better monitoring and accountability mechanisms and channels for community engagement that address all the many barriers to maternal and newborn health care if we are going to make progress.

A Tragedy That Doesn’t Have to Happen

By: Agnes Odhiambo, originally posted on The Huffington Post

Nairobi -- Nineteen-year-old Christine Nyaboke became pregnant in 2005. She was in labor for three days at home with a traditional birth attendant because her mother had no money to take her to hospital. She had a stillbirth, and later discovered that her body was painfully damaged. Nyaboke, not her real name, had a fistula, a severe childbirth injury that leaves its victims constantly leaking urine and feces. As a result, she was shunned and abused by former friends and others in her community. She could not leave home for social events, to look for work or even to go to church. She became depressed and contemplated suicide.

She was just one of the more than 50 women and girls I interviewed late last year who suffered obstetric fistula. Unless it is surgically repaired, it ruins their lives. With the G-8 planning to discuss maternal health at its summit meeting this week in Canada, I can't help but think of how these girls' and women's lives would not have been torn apart if they had access to appropriate health care, including family planning services, at the time of their pregnancy and childbirth.

Five Action Steps To Take for the G8/G20

This week, G8 and G20 leaders will meet to discuss how to best spend international aid in order to meet development goals.  We know the answer: Women are at the heart of the MDGs, and investing in women pays. Make your voice heard!  Click through to read five action steps you can take.

New Campaigns on Maternal and Child Mortality Buoyed by Progress Reported on MDGs

Updated data on mortality rates among mothers and young children are likely to encourage G8 leaders, who at their meeting later this week will make this health issue – long considered a neglected area of international development efforts – a 2010 priority.

According to the United Nations annual assessment of progress on the eight Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), released today, the number of deaths among children under the age of 5 has dropped from 12.6 million in 1990 to an estimated 8.8 million in 2008, corresponding to a decline in the mortality rate from 100 deaths per 1,000 live births to 72 in 2008 (a 28 per cent decline). But progress is falling short of the MDG target under Goal 4, for a two-thirds reduction in childhood mortality rates between 1990 and 2015, and millions of children continue to die each year at a tragically young age.  

Letter To the Leaders of the G8

To the Leaders of the G8,

Ten years ago, your governments signed and agreed to the UN Millennium Development Goals, including MDG 5 to improve maternal health. With only five years to the 2015 deadline, MDG 5 is significantly off-track. If we are to reach MDG 5 by 2015, the time is now to take action and implement proven strategies and solutions to save the lives of women and girls worldwide. It is time for progress, not just promises. It is time to deliver for women. [Read more...]

On the Eve of the G8: Waiting for the Rubber to Hit the Road

By: Jill Sheffield, president of Women Deliver, originally posted at The Huffington Post

Prime Minister Stephen Harper couldn't make it to the Women Deliver conference earlier this month, where nearly 3,500 advocates and leaders from 146 countries gathered to support action on maternal health, but thankfully his Minister of International Cooperation, Bev Oda, could. She will surely carry back to Canada the message that rang out from the thousands of voices present: it's time to deliver for women. Invest in women, it pays.

On the eve of the G8 and G20 Summits, Harper should heed this message and consider carefully as he gets ready to unveil the Muskoka Iniative -- hopefully a plan with a bold vision and a significant funding scheme. After the tremendous momentum that has built around maternal health as a key development issue, the G8 Summit should not be a denouement but an important stepping stone on the way to achieving our goal. Read more...

Making the Final Push for Political Will

By: Kate Dilley, Administrative Coordinator at Management Sciences for Health, originally posted at haba na haba, hujaza kibaba

One of the most striking admissions I heard during the Women Deliver 2010 conference in Washington DC (June 7-9) was that the major challenge facing maternal health improvement is a lack of political will. Kathleen Sebelius, the US Secretary for Health and Human Services, suggested that the problem with improving maternal mortality lay not with the lack of knowledge or interventions, but the political will to put that knowledge to action, the will to make maternal mortality a priority of governments, the will to stand up and say that the lives of women matter, and we MUST do something about it. Read more...

Global Parliamentarians Summit Calls for Funding to Maternal and Reproductive Health

The 6th Annual G8 Global Parliamentarians Summit was held on 10-11 June 2010 in Ottawa, Canada. The meeting gathered together 100 parliamentarians from around 50 countries representing G8 and G20 nations to discuss the issue of maternal health - MDG5. At the end of a highly interactive two-day conference, the law-makers adopted a strong parliamentary appeal which - as previous years - will be fed into the G8 process and presented to the Canadian Prime Minister, Stephen Harper, host of the Muskoka G8 Heads of State Summit scheduled for 25-26 June. The appeal urged donor governments to meet the international targets of 0.7 GNI for development assistance, devoting a significant portion of this funding to maternal and reproductive health, including family planning. Read more...

Statement from the First Ladies of Ghana, Sierra Leone, and Zanzibar

Hello. We are the first ladies of Ghana, Sierra Leone and Zanzibar and are honored to stand before you today. We believe that the first human right is the right to safe and healthy lives. Maternal mortality denies women prematurely that right and the rate of maternal deaths speaks loudly about the health status of a country. The problems women share recognize no borders. Read more...

Leadership and Management, a Key Ingredient for Improving Maternal Health

By: Dr. Morsi Mansour, Principal Program Associate on the Leadership, Management and Sustainability Program at Management Sciences for Health

Last week at the Women Deliver Conference in Washington, DC, Melinda Gates announced that the Gates Foundation  is committing $1.5 Billion in new grant money for maternal health. “Women and children have moved up on the global agenda, and I’m here to tell you that’s where they are going to stay,” said Gates.

In most developing countries, women and girls are the poorest and most vulnerable parts of the population because of entrenched inequalities. MSH believes that health is a human right; equal access is essential to all aspects of health care. Leadership and management is a key ingredient for improving maternal health – it’s the human element of a health system. Leadership and management is often a missed ingredient. But, effective, simple interventions can save a lot of lives.

Parliamentarians at Women Deliver 2010 Commit to Turning Dialogue Into Action

“The biggest enemy of women’s health and rights is political indifference”, Jill Sheffield, President of Women Deliver remarked during the opening plenary session. The Parliamentarians’ Forum on “Delivering Solutions, Delivering Resources, Delivering Leadership: The Role of Parliamentarians in advancing Maternal Health” was dedicated to prevent just that and discussed the way forward to achieve MDG 5 in the remaining five years from a Parliamentarians’ angle.

The Parliamentarians’ Forum culminated in a Parliamentarians’ Statement. Amongst others, Parliamentarians called for additional US $12 billion a year to be invested in women and girls and  to actively work towards the establishment of a global funding mechanism for family planning, mothers and children with other international donors. The statement urges Ministers to establish realistic and verifiable annual action plans for reaching individual MDG targets with a special emphasis on MDG 5 (a and b) to be presented at the UN High Level Meeting on the MDGs and commit to take a leading role in communicating the societal, economic, political and cultural benefits of investing in women and girls to key stakeholders. The full statement is attached.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton Addresses the Women Deliver 2010 Conference

Watch Hillary Clinton, US Secretary of State, as she addresses and opens the Women Deliver 2010 conference and calls for greater attention and action for maternal health, reproductive health, and women's health around the world. "Women deliver for the world," she says. "Now the world needs to deliver for women."

BBC: ‘Momentum’ on Tackling Maternal Deaths

By Jane Dreaper, Originally posted at BBC News
Health correspondent, BBC News, at the Women Deliver conference in Washington DC


Campaigners have pledged to keep up pressure on finance ministers to fund efforts to stop women dying in pregnancy and childbirth.

Women Deliver president, Jill Sheffield, told meeting delegates that the economic arguments were "dramatic". It comes after the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation announced a boost in funds for women and child health. World leaders agreed 10 years ago that maternal deaths should be reduced by 75% by 2015. Progress on this - the fifth Millennium Development Goal (MDG) - has until recently been slow - but activists say there is now a sense of momentum. Around 350,000 women around the world die each year from preventable problems such as infections or blood clots. Often, they have not had access to basic care during or after their pregnancy.

Help spend Bill and Melinda’s money!

originally posted at Conversations for a Better World

This week, The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation have promised to spend $1.5 billion on family planning, nutrition and general health of women and children in developing countries over the next five years.  But they didn't say exactly /how/ they will invest the money. This is where your ideas come into the picture!  more...

Women Deliver 2010: Moving Commitments Into Action

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.  more...

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