Improving maternal and child health is the one the smartest investments you can make if you care about not only ending suffering and saving lives, but also securing resilient economic growth that benefits all citizens. And for a wide range of partners to come together and put their support firmly behind developing countries’ own national plans on maternal and child health is even smarter.
Yesterday, I attended the launch of a new global partnership that aims to do just that – the Global Financing Facility (GFF) – at the Financing for Development Conference here in Addis Ababa.
What will it do?
The GFF will be a key part of delivering on the United Nations’ Secretary-General’s new strategy ‘Every Woman, Every Child’. It seeks to address the significant funding gaps that currently exist for reproductive, maternal, newborn, child and adolescent health (RMNCAH) – estimated at around $33 billion annually. It hopes to support 62 developing countries, which together account for the majority of the world’s maternal and child deaths, by 2020.
Yesterday, Bangladesh, Cameroon, India, Liberia, Mozambique, Nigeria, Senegal and Uganda were announced as the ‘second wave’ of countries on board, eligible for GFF support. They follow the first four ‘front-runner’ countries; Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, Kenya and Tanzania, which have already received differentiated support from engaged partners.
What makes it different from existing programmes?
While the initiative is still in the early stages, three initial points jump out:
- It is not all about generating “new money” (although additional financing is, of course, key)– a large part of the GFF’s purpose is to serve as a platform bringing together and better aligning existing funding flows both from country donors and multilateral institutions.
- Crucially, GFF partners are making a commitment to put their resources behind country-owned and country-led plans. This is a vital principle of making development assistance work effectively: providing the missing resources needed to allow developing country governments to scale up their own strategies.
- The funding provided by donors to the GFF will also be used to unlock other resources – both increased domestic revenues from developing country governments (who are more likely to ramp up their own budgets for their RMNCAH plans if they know they will be topped up by donor assistance), as well as private funding from businesses and philanthropies.
The Government of Canada – which has long shown real leadership in maternal and child health, and which was one of the GFF’s first investors – announced yesterday that it was expanding its support with a $40 million investment towards malaria control and strengthening health systems, geared at leveraging more funding from private capital markets.
In total yesterday, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Canada, Japan and the United States announced new financing commitments amounting to $214 million to the GFF Trust Fund, managed by the World Bank, which will be added to commitments already made by Norway ($600 million) and Canada ($200 million).
Over the past two decades, we have seen remarkable progress in combatting preventable child deaths: a decline from 12.7 million in 1990 to roughly 6 million in 2014.
It’s one of the best news stories in the world (and we should never stop telling it!). This success story is thanks in part to the resources donors have channelled through programmes such as the Global Fund and Gavi, the vaccines alliance, which in turn have supported countries to increase coverage of key life-saving interventions including malaria bednets and vaccines. But it’s clear that we’re not there yet, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa, which is home to almost half of all child deaths; in many ways, MNCH issues continue to take a back seat to other development priorities—and the GFF aims to help change that.
In September, the world will adopt new Global Goals (the Sustainable Development Goals) that we hope will, among others, include ambitious targets focused on tackling newborn, child, and maternal deaths. This is particularly critical for maternal mortality which, by contrast, has seen much slower and more uneven progress.
As ONE’s Poverty is Sexist report shows, girls and women living in the poorest countries face some of the toughest challenges on our planet. Nothing illustrates this so well as the fact that nearly half of all maternal deaths in the world occur among the 13% of women who live in the least developed countries. We urgently need to provide more support to these most vulnerable women and accelerate improvements in maternal health.
We know what’s possible with the right resources and strategies in place. The challenge is clear: we need to up our game and ensure that every woman and child can fulfil their right to good health and life-long opportunity and dignity. The GFF launched yesterday is another important step towards meeting this challenge.