Improving Maternal and Child Health Around the World

Last week, at the United Nations, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced a five-year public/private global alliance to support progress in reproductive, maternal, and newborn health. You can read the press release regarding this announcement on the U.S. Agency for International Development's (USAID) website. This announcement took place at an event hosted by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon on the margins of the UN Millennium Development Goals Summit to highlight a global consensus on the need to improve maternal and child health around the world.

Together with U.K. Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, Australian Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd, and Melinda Gates, Secretary Clinton unveiled a partnership between the USAID, the UK Department for International Development (DFID), the Australian Agency for International Development (AusAID), and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to increase access to family planning and reduce maternal and neonatal deaths in South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa. This effort will contribute to the goal of reducing the unmet need for family planning by 100 million women. It will also expand skilled birth attendance and facility-based deliveries and increase the numbers of women and newborns receiving quality and essential post-natal care.

The alliance will address the Millennium Development Goals related to improving maternal and child health, where progress has been especially slow. Estimates indicate that more than 200 million women want to use contraceptives but do not have access.  In addition, only half of the 123 million women who give birth each year receive the antenatal, delivery and postnatal, and newborn care they need, and progress in reducing deaths for newborns has been slower than for children aged one month to five years.

As Secretary Clinton noted in her announcement, “the Obama Administration has put women and children at the heart of our development efforts.”  The new alliance between the US, UK, Australia, and the Gates Foundation to improve reproductive, maternal, and newborn health exemplifies this commitment. Secretary Clinton’s full remarks can be read on the State Department’s website.

Rachel Vogelstein is Senior Advisor in the Secretary of State’s Office of Global Women’s Issues and represents the State Department on the White House Council for Women and Girls. 

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