While commending the work of a United Nations commission trying to improve access to life-saving medicines, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today said that much remains to be done to save the lives of the 800 women and more than 20,000 children who die every day from preventable causes.
“Every two minutes, a woman dies at what should have been a joyful moment [childbirth]. And millions of women are unable to choose if, when and how many children they would like to have because they lack access to modern contraception – this tells me we are still not doing enough,” said Mr. Ban in remarks at the opening of the UN Commission on Life-Saving Commodities for Women and Children, delivered on his behalf by the Executive Director of the UN Population Fund (UNFPA), Babatunde Osotimehin.
UNFPA and the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) launched the Commission in March, with the aim of improving access to essential but overlooked health supplies that could save the lives of millions of women and children every year. Its activities include identifying strategies for improving the delivery of essential health supplies, promoting new technologies and products, and strengthening regulatory frameworks.
The Commission is part of the Secretary-General’s Every Woman Every Child initiative to support the achievement of the health-related Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). There are a total of eight MDGs, ranging from halving extreme poverty to halting the spread of HIV/AIDS, and they include improving maternal health and reducing child mortality, all by the target date of 2015.
The Secretary-General said the Commission has focused on 13 medicines and health supplies and noted that its recommendations on how to remove barriers to greater access to those commodities will be instrumental in improving affordability and making the items more readily available.
“As your work clearly shows, we do not need to wait for scientific breakthroughs,” said Mr. Ban. “We already have commodities, knowledge, interventions and policies that can prevent needless deaths.
“This is our opportunity to ensure they reach the women and children who need them, now. This is our opportunity to make a lasting contribution to economic growth and sustainable development,” he added.
The Commission’s co-chairs are President Goodluck Jonathan of Nigeria and Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg of Norway. UNICEF’s Executive Director, Anthony Lake, and Mr. Osotimehin are vice-chairs.