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Maternal mortality the focus of UN-led South Asian forum on development goals

Maternal mortality the focus of UN-led South Asian forum on development goals

Improving maternal health and reducing child mortality were high on the agenda as more than 100 experts from across South Asia gathered today in the Nepalese capital for the start of a two-day forum organized by the United Nations and other groups on achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

The South Asia MDG Forum opened in Kathmandu, bringing together government officials, business leaders, academics and members of the media to help formulate a regional road map for attaining the Goals, a series of globally agreed targets for reducing social ills.

Kim Hak-Su, Executive Secretary of the UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (UNESCAP), told the forum that while South Asia has made commendable progress in lifting millions out of extreme poverty, it still lags on other key measures.

“The majority of countries in South Asia are off track for more than one third of their indicators,” Mr. Kim said, stressing the importance of promoting gender equality, ameliorating maternal health and cutting child mortality.

Matthew Kahane, UN Development Programme (UNDP) Resident Representative for Nepal, said in a message that “action must be taken now” as the region has one of the highest maternal mortality ratios in the world.

The forum was set up by UNESCAP, UNDP, the Asian Development Bank and the Nepalese Government. Delegates are expected to produce a 30-point action plan on how to achieve the MDGs by their target date of 2015.