Blog Piece: Global leaders commit to accelerate momentum for Women’s, Children’s and Adolescents’ Health
At the sidelines of the UN High-Level Meeting (UN HLM) on Universal Health Coverage (UHC) during the 74th session of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) high-level week, Every Woman Every Child (EWEC) together with the government of Norway, the Partnership for Maternal, Newborn and Child Health (PMNCH) and EWEC-LAC, hosted a high-level reception to announce new and renewed EWEC commitments and to mobilize high-level political support for the comprehensive UHC agenda.
The reception themed: “Delivering Together for the Health and Well-being of Women, Children & Adolescents to advance Universal Health Coverage” focused on UHC’s provisions for women’s, children’s and adolescents’ access to Primary Health Care (PHC), including sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) in the PHC Essential Package of Services, bringing together several actors in in two fireside chat discussions about access to PHC and strengthening health systems that provide comprehensive services for women, children and adolescents. The reception served as an important platform for all EWEC ecosystem partners– EWEC Secretariat, the H6 Partnership, PMNCH and the GFF, governments, political leaders, private sector, civil society, multi-stakeholder commitment makers and young people – to collectively advocate for women’s, children’s and adolescents’ health in the EWEC movement within the UHC agenda. This focus resonated well with the theme of the UN High Level Meeting in UHC, “Universal Health Coverage: Moving Together to Build a Healthier World”
One key highlight of the fireside chat was the need to ensure access to comprehensive PHC, based on the principles of equity, access and quality and the integral role this will play to achieve SDG 3, including the transformative aim of UHC. As noted by Director-General of the WHO and Chair of the H6 Partnership
UHC is a highly anticipated progress and is the ambition of the updated Global Strategy for Women’s, Children’s and Adolescents’ Health. This Global Strategy is much broader, more ambitious and more focused on equity than its predecessor. It is universal and applies to all people (including the marginalized and hard-to-reach), in all places (including crisis situations) and to transnational issues. It’s three objectives of Survive, Thrive and Transform all strongly focus on safeguarding women, children and adolescents including in humanitarian and fragile settings and upholding their human rights to the highest attainable standard of health, even in the most difficult circumstances.
It should however be recalled that the previous Global Strategy witnessed great achievements between 2010 – 2015, from galvanizing political leadership, to attracting billions of dollars in new financial commitments to curating the Every Woman Every Child initiative, a powerful multi-stakeholder movement for the health and safety of millions of lives. In 2016, we saw the birth of the UN SG’s Independent Accountability Panel for Every Woman, Every Child and Every Adolescent that is playing a central role in ensuring the independent review of the implementation of the 2016-2030 Global Strategy for Women’s, Children’s and Adolescents’ Health (GSWCAH).
In addition, the UN Commission on life-saving commodities for women’s and children’s health has strengthened the availability and supply of essential interventions and several global action plans and reports have been launched to address and bring attention to neglected areas with support for country implementation thus saving millions of lives and accelerating progress towards the health SDGs. Strides have also been made in areas such as increasing access to contraception and essential interventions; reducing maternal and child mortality and malnutrition and combating HIV/AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis.
In the face of progress, there are far too many women, children and adolescents worldwide that still have little or no access to essential amenities such as: good-quality health services and education; clean air and water; adequate sanitation and good nutrition. They represent a vulnerable population that face violence and discrimination, are unable to participate fully in society and encounter other barriers to realizing their human rights. As a result, the annual death toll remains unacceptably high: 289,000 maternal deaths, 2.6 million stillbirths, 5.9 million deaths in children under the age of five, including 2.7 million newborn deaths, and 1.3 million adolescent deaths (2016-2030, GSWCAH). In addition, many others suffer illnesses, disabilities and limitations that impede attaining their full potential; thus resulting in enormous losses and costs for countries and their future generations.
Importantly, most of the deaths among women, children and adolescents are preventable because we know their causes and we have sufficient evidence, required resources, knowledge, skills and tools to, at least, halve these deaths. As stated in the updated Global Strategy, ‘Today we have both the knowledge and the opportunity to end preventable deaths among all women, children and adolescents, to greatly improve their health and well-being and to bring about the transformative change needed to shape a more prosperous and sustainable future. That is the ambition of this Global Strategy for Women’s, Children’s and Adolescents’ Health.’
In conclusion, I believe that to realize the ambitious goals of EWEC and the Global Strategy, there is a need for a more concerted effort to capitalize on our collective action and efficiently use our available resources to undertake high impact and evidence-based interventions that leave no one behind. We need to make access to PHC and UHC a reality and strengthen our health systems to provide quality and comprehensive services for all women, children and adolescents. This includes “care and services that promote, maintain and improve maternal, newborn, child and adolescent health; mental health and sexual and reproductive health” in line with the Astana Declaration, the UHC Declaration and the SDGs. In addition, in order to sustain momentum following the High-level Meeting on UHC, with a focus on those most left behind – women, children and adolescents – the EWEC ecosystem must endeavor to work with and support countries further to ensure that women, children and adolescents, Survive, Thrive and Transform.
By Patrick Mwesigye
Founder and Member,
Uganda Youth and Adolescents Health Forum
Edited for posting by EWEC