Tanzanian president urges global action to improve health of women, children

Dar es Salaam, Tanzania (PANA) - Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete, has called on the international community to remain mindful of the reality of poor health facing populations in developing countries, particularly on matters of women's and children's health, and take a concerted action to bring about change in tackling this challenge.

Opening the second and final meeting of the UN Commission on Information and Accountability for Women's and Children's Health here Sunday, Kikwete said that low-income countries around the globe shoulder the greatest burden of maternal and child mortality and morbidity.

Kikwete and Canadina Prime MInister Stephen Harper co-chair the Commission that was set up by the World Health Organisation (WHO) in January this year at the request of UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon to accelerate progress on the Global Strategy for Women's and Children's Health.

The Commission has two vice chairs, namely WHO Director-General Margaret Chan and International Telecommunications Union (ITU) Secretary-General Hamadoun Toure.

Comprising around 30 commissioners,  the body will end its two-day session by proposing a framework for reporting, oversight and accountability on women's and children's health worldwide.

Two working groups of technical experts have produced papers for consideration by the Commission.

The time-limited Commission is composed of leaders and experts from WHO member states, multilateral agencies, academia, civil society and the private sector.

At its first meeting on 26 January, 2011, in Geneva, the Commission agreed on the development of an accountability framework that must be anchored at the country level, practical and operational for all countries, and build on existing tools and structures.

Underlining the need for remaining mindful of the situation on the ground, Kikwete said that Africa had about 12 percent of the world's population but accounts for up to 50 percent of the global maternal deaths and 19 percent of deaths of children under five years of age.

Combined, Africa and Asia account for 92 percent of the world's under-five mortality.

"These statistics are a stark reminder of the enormity of the challenge facing poor developing countries with regard to reducing maternal and child mortality," said Kikwete, emphasising that the work of the Commission on the proposed agenda for action "is a critical element in meeting the challenges that we face".

He said the final report of the Commission would not be the end of the group's mission, but the beginning of an interactive and collaborative partnership on matters of women's and children's health.

"I believe that our work will set a renewed momentum and focus to accelerate progress towards reaching the objectives of Millennium Development Goals 4 and 5 by 2015," he added.

According to the Commission's draft report, seen by PANA, despite positive developments the world has registered in reducing the number of women and children dying from preventable causes, the absence of civil registration systems in low- and middle-income countries, and the resulting weakness of vital statistics on births, deaths and causes of death, has hampered efforts to build a reliable evidence base of health improvement.

Besides, the report points out, health management systems are often weak and hamper direct measurement of achievements towards the health-related MDGs.

Many countries also do not have well-functioning integrated systems that combine information from population-based sources such as surveys and facility and administrative data.

In a brief overview of the outcome of the Commission's first meeting, Chan told the opening session that since some countries "could not keep their promises and pledges we were not able to see the kind of results we want to see."

Observing that the health management information systems need to be strengthened, Chan said that with innovations in the information and communication technologies "we are able to do a lot of data analysis".

On this point, Toure remarked that ITU and WHO have been working closely together. "We are being used as a tool but in no way will ICT overshadow the health part," he added.

The Commission's draft report agrees that building civil registration systems to deliver accurate and reliable data demands long-term political commitment and investment.

"That kind of political will has been largely lacking, with the result that the information base for improving women's and children's health has mostly relied on surveys conducted at intervals of several years and, in many countries, with significant inputs from outside agencies," the report said.
-0- PANA AR/VAO 1May2011

01 may 2011 19:18:25

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