On 26 April, G8 development ministers will be meeting in Halifax, Canada, to develop an action plan on maternal, newborn and child health. This builds on Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s pledge in January that as president of the G8 in 2010, Canada will use this year’s summit to “champion a major initiative to improve the health of women and children in the world’s poorest regions.”
For those of us working to fight global poverty, this announcement came as welcome news. Despite improvements in global health in recent years, progress on maternal and child health is still far from where it should be. More than 300,000 mothers still die a year during pregnancy and childbirth and nearly 9 million children die before their 5th birthday.
Yet most of these deaths are the result of preventable and treatable causes. New support for cost-effective, proven interventions could make a dramatic impact on maternal, newborn and child health.
In the past, the G8 has acknowledged the urgent need in maternal and child health along with some of the solutions, but has made few concrete commitments on how it will help African countries make improvements. With Canada’s leadership and public commitment to this issue, 2010 can be the year when the G8 finally takes action.
It’s also an important time for these issues to be highlighted. When African Heads of State meet at the African Union Summit in July they will focus on maternal and child health. In September all global leaders will meet in New York to review progress on the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and with MDGs on maternal and child health being some of the most off-track, a robust plan from the G8 on this issue could galvanise the international community.
Ahead of the meeting of G8 development ministers in Halifax, ONE is outlining its recommendations to the G8. In order to be effective and to make a real difference in the lives of families in the world’s poorest regions, the G8‘s action strategy should:
Be results-oriented - Canada and other G8 countries should commit to an action plan that combines high-impact interventions and long-term investments in local capacity with the ultimate goal of training 1 million health care workers in countries with a high burden of maternal and child deaths. They should work towards universal access to skilled birth attendants, universal access to bed nets, vaccination packages (including pneumococcal and rotavirus vaccines) and anti-malarial drugs, and support comprehensive education campaigns about pregnancy to women of child bearing age. Finally, any initiative should have the goal of eliminating mother-to-children transmission of HIV by 2015.
Mobilize new resources - Canada and other G8 countries should double bilateral Overseas Development Assistance to maternal, newborn and child health from approximately USD $4 billion in 2010 to USD $8 billion by 2013. This funding should be channelled through existing bilateral initiatives or new multilateral approaches in the future, such as an expanded Global Fund. In addition, the G8 should commit to full replenishment of multilateral organizations already working to improve maternal and child health such as GAVI (Global Alliance of Vaccines and Immunizations), the Global Fund, the United Nations Population Fund and the World Bank.
Emphasise integration, coordination and country ownership – In addition to new resources, Canada and other G8 countries should also commit to improving the quality and effectiveness of maternal and child health efforts through a commitment to the principles of country ownership, integration and coordination. The G8 and other donors should commit to working with developing countries to devise technically sound national health plans through their internal processes and mechanisms like the International Health Partnership and the private sector to coordinate support and mobilise resources. The G8 should also support and encourage efforts by developing country governments to transparently mobilise domestic resources for improving maternal, newborn and child health and the expansion of affordable access to quality care.
Ensure accountability based on the TRACK principles – Canada and other G8 countries should use this initiative to pilot a robust G8 focus on accountability in line with the accountability matrix and the TRACK principles, which calls for new promises to be Transparent, Results-orients and Accountable, while also articulating any Conditionalities and mapping out a strategy to ensure that will be Kept.
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