The planet’s social and economic inequalities must be addressed if women and children are to “survive and thrive,” Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon urged today, calling for accelerated action on achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) ahead of the 2015 deadline.
In remarks delivered to a special event held by the United Nations’ Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) and titled Meeting the Challenges of the Health MDGs and Beyond; International Center for Diarrheal Diseases Research, Bangladesh (ICDDR,B) Innovative Approach, Mr. Ban told delegates that while much progress in achieving the Goals has been made, a great deal still remained to be done.
“Time is passing and we must urgently accelerate our work. That takes commitment, political will, and a determination to focus efforts on where they can have the biggest impact,” he stated, adding that this was one reason why he made improving maternal and child health a priority of the MDG agenda.
“We know that investing in women’s and children’s health yields high and long-lasting returns – for individuals, for families, for societies and for the future we want.”
Pointing to a number of successes on the issue, the Secretary-General stated that since 1990, the mortality rate for children under the age of five plummeted by nearly half, while maternal deaths fell by 40 per cent. In addition, over 2 billion people in the world gained access to drinking water.
Nevertheless, he noted, every two minutes, a woman dies in pregnancy or in childbirth while 19,000 children die every day from largely preventable causes. “If we want to see women and children survive and thrive, we must address inequalities and reach the most vulnerable in poor and underserved areas,” Mr. Ban stressed.
“We have the technology and know-how to save and improve women’s and children’s lives – and we need to join our good ideas and efforts,” he said, calling the ICDDR,B one of the driving forces in that effort.
The event – co-chaired by the Permanent Representative of Bangladesh, Abdul Moment and the Permanent Representative of Norway, Geir Pedersen–prompted Mr. Ban to reiterate his “sincere condolences” for the recent garment factory fire in the Bangladeshi capital of Dhaka which reportedly killed over 400 people.
Mr. Ban, however, also highlighted Bangladesh’s progress towards the MDGs, noting that his visit to the South Asian country had been “amazing and inspirational” and that in visits with local health workers and representatives he had learned that Bangladesh took the issue of health “very seriously.”
“I commend Bangladesh on its progress towards all the health MDGs,” he continued. “Thank you for being leaders in global health – leaders that can change the health of millions of people – and the future for us all.”