With inadequate progress being made towards meeting the United Nations Millennium Development Goals (MDGs
) of slashing maternal and child deaths by 2015, a meeting of experts from around the world has called for a major cooperative effort that could save the lives of 7 million women, newborns and children each year.
"Only through coordinated and concerted action and unprecedented resource mobilization at the national and international levels can we hope to meet our commitments by the target year," health officials, medical professionals and advocates declared at the close of a three-day forum at the weekend in New Delhi, India.
Appealing for "strong partnerships that include governments, development partners, donors, civil society, the private sector and others," the conference declaration called on donors to close an estimated $9 billion annual shortfall in funding for maternal and child health programmes.
The underlying theme of the meeting - "Lives in the Balance: The Partnership Meeting on Maternal, Newborn and Child Health" - was the lack of progress many countries have made towards meeting the MDGs on maternal and child deaths, seen as key steps in eliminating extreme poverty, another major MDG set by the UN Millennium Summit of 2000.
"Cost-effective interventions, if taken to scale worldwide, can prevent close to three-fourths of maternal deaths, and over two-thirds of child deaths," the declaration said. "Thus, we have - almost within reach - the means to save nearly 7 million lives each year."
To achieve this, countries need to "invest in strengthening health systems, from community to the referral levels," tailoring programmes to fit national and community needs, and specifically ensuring that they reach and benefit the poor, the marginalized and the underserved.
"This has been a very productive and inspiring meeting, one that has taken full advantage of the depth and diversity of experience among the participants," UN Population Fund (UNFPA
) Deputy Executive Director Kunio Waki told the closing session. "Our shared commitment to health and equity has strengthened our mutual determination to redress the shameful and unjust gaps in coverage for mothers, newborns and children."