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Maternal Child Health Commitment Announced

By Susan Carey Dempsey on September 26, 20072 Comments

You quickly get used to a lot of big numbers being tossed around at the Clinton Global Initiative, as millionaires and billionaires, governments, international NGOs and corporations talk about massive commitments. This morning, President Clinton invited Jens Stoltenberg, the prime minister of Norway up to the podium at the end of the opening plenary session, to talk about a renewed, strengthened commitment to fulfill Millennium Development Goals 4 and 5, addressing maternal and child health. Those goals, Stoltenberg said, called for child mortality to be reduced by 2/3 by 2015 – yet the world is not moving quickly enough – and for the rate of maternal mortality, which he described as "unacceptable"  to be cut by 3/4 by 2015.

At a press conference following the announcement, he brought those numbers down to painfully intimate scale:for many women, the most dangerous day in their lives is the day they give birth, he said. One in seven women die giving birth in some countries. Joining him in the announcement were leaders from Mozambique and Tanzania, the Netherlands and Idonesia, as well as UNICEF and the World Health Organization.

The campaign will focus on mobilizing more money to achieve the current goals, increasing awareness of the problem around the world and spending funds in smarter ways. World Bank President Robert Zoellick cited the last point, which has grown in significance in international government aid, just as in philanthropy: "It’s results-based financing, " he said. "You have to show results to continue to get aid from the taxpayers."

Although Ann Vennemann of UNICEF recently announced a significant drop in the mortality rate of children under five, the group agreed there is far more that can be – and must be  – done. "The clock is ticking," said Margaret Cho, of WHO. "In 2000, a strong commitment was made to meeting the Millennium Development Goals. So we can’t say we didn’t know" how severe the needs were.

According to Clinton, $1 billion equals two billion children’s lives saved. The combined efforts of world leaders, corporate and private philanthropists, international agencies and NGOs will be aimed at translating more of those numbers into tangible results.

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