Women deliver conference launches new commitments

22nd October 2007

Strong new pledges of commitment to invest in women´s health came from donors, government officials, corporations, foundations and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) at closing sessions of the landmark Women Deliver Conference, which sought to mobilize political will and investment to reduce pregnancy-related deaths and disabilities worldwide.

More than 1,800 participants from 109 countries cheered a final statement from the 70 cabinet ministers and parliamentarians present, who pledged to make achievement of Millennium Development Goal (MDG) number 5 (improve maternal health) "a high priority on the national, regional and international health agenda".

The ministers and lawmakers also pledged to be advocates in their home countries for "increased commitment of financial and human resources" against maternal death and to accelerate the expansion of services for maternal and newborn health.

"We are making a promise to the women of the world," said Ann Starrs, Executive Vice-President of Family Care International, a conference organizing partner, at the closing plenary session. "We recognize your contributions and value your lives. We will not allow this injustice and waste to continue. We will deliver."

The three-day conference witnessed the United Kingdom's announcement of a grant of more than $200 million to UNFPA, the United Nations Population Fund, to advance women´s reproductive health worldwide; an $11-million investment by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation in distributing new technology against post-delivery blood loss in Nigeria and India; and a commitment by Japan to put global health at the centre of next year's Group of Eight summit in Japan. Pledges of further action also came from the David & Lucile Packard Foundation, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the International Labour Organization, the United Nations Foundation, UNICEF, Exxon/Mobil, and GlaxoSmithKline.

Advocates for women´s health should seek to work both within governments and as NGO activists, said Dr. Helene Gayle, President of CARE. "We need people both on the inside and the outside to figure out how to work together to get these things to happen," she said. "NGOs can´t do it by themselves."
Earlier commitments to the goals of Women Deliver included pledges of $1 billion from Norway for the Deliver Now global campaign for health MDGs, an initiative to improve maternal and child health and reduce disease. The Netherlands pledged 125 million euros (about $178 million) for gender equality and maternal health, while Denmark pledged 110 million kroner (some $21 million) for HIV/AIDS and reproductive health.

"Increased and dependable financing would make a big difference in saving the half a million mothers who die each year in pregnancy or when giving birth," said Morten Wetland, Secretary of State in the office of Norway´s Prime Minister, Jens Stoltenberg.

"All national, regional and international leaders must recognize that the achievement of the MDGs as a whole, and improvement of health systems more broadly, depend largely on achieving MDGs 4 and 5," the ministers´ statement said. Katja Iversen

For more information, go to www.womendeliver.org

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October 22 2007, Katja Iversen, UNFPA

Categories: Advocacy and Accountability Working Group