The high rate of maternal mortality and morbidity remains a major concern. We are making slow progress and we are far from reaching the MDG5 target for 2015, as pointed out in the Outcome Document of last September’s MDG Summit. Universal access to reproductive health is also lagging behind, especially for poor, rural and uneducated women as well as adolescents and young people.
The UNDG thematic paper on MDGs 4, 5 and 61 identifies a number of reasons for the lack of progress in achieving MDG 5 for women and girls, such as 1) problems related to sexual and reproductive health, including lack of access to obstetric care and family planning; 2)weak health systems; 3)socio-economic factors like harmful traditional practices and lack of education and factors that prevent the empowerment of women including for seeking health care 4) inadequate maternal nutrition; 5)States failure to protect the right of women to enjoy the highest attainable standards of physical and mental health, including sexual and reproductive health.
Every preventable maternal death is one too many. It is an expression of neglecting to address the causes of maternal mortality and morbidity. Irrespectively of women social and economic background and their HIV status, we emphasis the need for the provision of universal access to reproductive health by 2015, including integrating family planning, sexual health and health care-services in national strategies and programs. In particular poor, rural and uneducated women in developing countries still lack access to the recommended care during pregnancy. We need integrated delivery of health services through stronger health systems with sufficient skilled health workers at their core and with sufficient supplies and equipment. We also need to ensure that every woman has access to these health services, when and where she needs this. In particular, three basic measures are proven to assist in reducing maternal mortality: skilled attendance at birth, emergency obstetric care and access to family planning, including contraception.
Progress in bringing down maternal mortality and in increasing access to reproductive health, particularly family planning, is entirely possible, but the issue needs political recognition, urgent political and financial commitment, and most of all action. Investing in maternal health is a wise investment with high returns in health and economies.
We are encouraged by the outcome of the MDG Summit of September 2010, re-affirming our strong commitment for accelerated progress towards the achievement of MDG 5.
The MDG Initiative, announced by the President of the European Commission, foresees the allocation of up to 1 billion Euro from the European Development Fund to support the achievement of the MDGs in ACP countries, targeting the most off track MDGs, including MDG5.
UN agencies and Member States need to act as one and increase their interaction with all stakeholders at all levels to fulfil the promise to women and girls. It is as the UN Secretary General says in his special initiative, the Global Strategy for Womens and Childrens Health: Together we must make a decisive move, now! We know what works, we now must deliver.
The EU welcomes once again the creation of UN Women, which should re-energize our efforts and increase the effectiveness of our action. The EU believes that the establishment of UN Women provides a unique opportunity to make a quantitative leap towards womens full empowerment. We warmly welcome the decisive and energetic leadership that Michele Bachelet has demonstrated in her short time as head of UN Women and reiterate our full support for UN Women and its 100 day Action Plan
– In the face of the daunting problem that is maternal mortality, how can we concretely implement the Global Strategy on Womens and Childrens Health at country level?
– What can we learn from those countries that have managed to substantially reduce maternal mortality? Where is our common analysis of the success factors? How can we gather them urgently and systematically?2
– In what ways can gender equality concerns and the promotion of women’s and girls rights lead to health systems in which sexual and reproductive health is strengthen and prioritised. What lesson can be learned from countries which have fully integrated sexual and reproductive health into heir national health systems?
– What immediate and concrete steps have to be taken to increase access to health in particular of poor, rural and uneducated women and of adolescents and young people?
– How can political commitment towards the right to health for women and girls become more prominent and action/results-oriented, including by enabling women and girls to take part in decision-making that affects them?
1 UNDG Thematic paper on MDGs 4, 5 and 6, 2010
2 Richard Horton, The continued invisibility of women and children, The Lancet, 5 June 2010, mentions this point as one of the obstacles to making headway on reaching MDG5.