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Landmark UN women’s conference ends with pledge to prevent maternal deaths

Landmark UN women’s conference ends with pledge to prevent maternal deaths

A landmark United Nations-sponsored conference aimed at generating political will and investment to slash maternal deaths has concluded with participants pledging to bolster efforts to improve women’s health.

Over 1,800 decision-makers, experts, representatives of non-governmental organizations (NGOs), women’s rights activists and celebrities from over 100 countries attended last week’s three-day Women Deliver event in London, which produced a final statement from the 70 government officials who pledged to make the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) of improving maternal health “a high priority on the national, regional and international health agenda.”

Their statement called for the “increased commitment of financial and human resources” to prevent maternal deaths and expand heath services.

Achieving the MDGs – eight ambitious targets to slash ills such as poverty by 2015 – depends largely on achieving the Goals targeting child mortality and maternal health, it noted.

Over the course of the conference, the United Kingdom pledged more than $200 million to the UN Population Fund (UNFPA) to advance women’s reproductive health globally, while the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation announced an $11 million plan to distribute new technology to protect against post-delivery blood loss in Nigeria and India.

Japan announced its intention to spotlight the importance of global health when it hosts next year’s meeting of the Group of Eight (G8) industrialized nations.

In addition, other groups – including the David & Lucile Packard Foundation, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the UN International Labour Organization (ILO), the UN Foundation, the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), Exxon/Mobil and GlaxoSmithKline – also made pledges to support the cause.

“We need people both on the inside and the outside to figure out how to work together to get these things to happen,” said Helene Gayle, President of CARE, who urged women’s health advocates to work both within governments and as activists. “NGOs can’t do it by themselves,” she said.