A new UN strategy for child & maternal health: but what happens next?
Unfortunately we didn’t get to be in the room when world leaders pledged their commitments to the UN Secretary General’s Global Strategy for Women’s and Children’s Health, but watching it by live feed from the bloggers’ lounge definitely gave it the feeling of a climactic moment to this week in New York.
That was because countries, both developing and developed, global health actors like the Gates Foundation and NGOs unveiled the pledges that they were making against the plan. The number being thrown around was to the tune of $40 billion in total. I can’t say that I’ve added it up myself or that we should assume this is all ‘new’ money’.
Just to back up briefly, the UN Secretary General’s Global Strategy lays out an integrated approach to women and children’s health. It is overall quite sensible and a welcome starting point for getting the health Millennium Development Goals back on track. The plan correctly acknowledges that strong health systems with well-trained, properly staffed workforces are essential to better and longer lives for women and children in developing countries. It also acknowledges how health cannot be separated from improvements to water and sanitation. And even if not as strongly as we would have hoped, it recognises the importance of removing the financial barriers to accessing healthcare.
The Strategy calls for an accountability framework to be developed (with the WHO at the helm) to track progress on all of the commitments that were made today. This is a good start but actually moving forward on this framework will be essential. Systems must be put in place that track and progress on the ground. Donor countries must also make good on the strategy’s pledge (which they have backed) to cede control of national health plans to the governments of developing countries. And if there is a viable and fully-costed national health plan, donors should be working to make sure that it doesn’t go unfunded.
Catching up with Martha Kwataine and Dr Samuel Kargbo, who have been part of our team in New York this week, they had their own take on the Strategy.
“There isn’t really anything new in it. The problems are the same ones. As countries we already know what works and what doesn’t. Maybe we have realised that we’re not doing enough. What’s required is putting more effort on what we know can work,” says Martha.
And Samuel asked, “Who is going to be the person monitoring it all making sure that joined up national health plans that include water and sanitation and nutrition actually happen? How do we turn this into action?”
We look forward to continuing to work with Martha and Samuel in answering these questions and looking at how to track progress against the Strategy. Let us hope that at the next MDG Review Summit in 2013 that we’re not scratching our heads asking these same questions.
Rebecka Rosenquist is an Action for Global Health advocacy officer based at Interact Worldwide in London, UK