Greater push for maternal health at both global and regional summits
Regional Director Dr Shin Young-soo attended the United Nations High-level Plenary Meeting on the Millennium Development Goals held in New York from 20 to 22 September. The Summit took stock of progress towards achieving the 2015 Millennium Development Goals (MDG) and called for an accelerated effort over the next five years to meet the internationally agreed upon development and health goals.
Following the MDG Summit, Dr Shin travelled to Putrajaya, Malaysia, for the sixty-first session of the Regional Committee for the Western Pacific. The same message emerged at both meetings: governments need to redouble their efforts to improve the health of women if the goals are to be achieved.
At the centre of the discussions was MDG 5, which aims for a three quarters reduction in maternal mortality by 2015. Progress on this front has been poor, including in some parts of the Western Pacific Region.
"I think it is absolutely shameful in this day and age that so many women in the Region are dying in childbirth or pregnancy," Dr Shin told the Regional Committee. Each day, more than 100 women die from pregnancy-related deaths in the Region.
The reasons for these deaths, he explained, are often simple. Too many women live in poverty and cannot afford medical care. Too many women are giving birth at home, without the assistance of a skilled birth attendant. And too many women are denied the education they need to manage their own health.
Dr Shin called for greater political commitment, stronger government leadership, and women-friendly health policies, systems and services to improve women’s health. Among the key areas of concern he highlighted were pregnancy and childbirth, where health risks account for a large share of women's morbidity and mortality, especially in low-income settings.