A better future, or too ambitious to be true?

$25bn pledged by the UN to improve women’s, children’s and adolescents’ health

Last week I watched the great and the good speak tirelessly about what’s needed to save our future. Pope Francis, President Obama, Ban Ki-moon, Nobel laureate Malala Yousafzai and Indian Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, amongst others, took turns in front of the massed ranks at the UN Summit in New York to highlight the issues, emphasise the problems and offer solutions. Collectively, as people of this planet, we are at a crucial cross-road, as many of our brethren face countless problems, on a daily basis.

Extreme poverty, barriers to primary education, continuing gender inequality, the lack of available, sanitized water for all and the negative impact of climate change were stressed. But, as a father of two young girls who watched his wife go through the intensity of childbirth in relative comfort, it was the issue of maternal and child mortality that really grabbed my attention.

The World Health Organization estimates 16,000 children under 5 die every day from preventable causes. And, every year 300,000 women die in pregnancy or childbirth.

Can this really be true? My immediate thoughts were, “How? Why? What’s so terribly wrong that this is happening? Is anything being done to address this appalling situation?”

After some digging and speaking to friends and colleagues I’ve found that, thankfully, something is being done.

Governments and global leaders have pledged $25bn over the next five years to improve the health of women, children and adolescents.

According to Dr Flavia Bustreo, Assistant Director-General, Family, Women’s and Children’s Health Cluster, World Health Organization, “Only by putting women, children and adolescents at their heart can the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals bring about the transformation needed to attain and sustain the future we want, where women, children and adolescents everywhere have the opportunity to live healthy and prosperous lives.”

In theory, this sounds great, and there have been some attention grabbing headlines, but, will it genuinely help? If I go by the achievements of the original (Millennium) goals, ratified at the start of the century, which looked to address these issues then I’m skeptical. They have fallen short of what they were supposed to achieve. Right now, I’m not convinced the money will reach the thousands who truly need it. Those, who unlike my wife and children, are not fortunate enough to be close to skilled midwives and doctors, hospitals with the right equipment, accessible medicines and vaccinations. Those who cannot get clean water straight from the tap.

I’m assured that history is on our side. I read that ongoing global efforts since 2000, have had an impact. Recent published figures show that the number of child and maternal deaths has fallen. Globally, child mortality rates have plummeted 50% and there has been a 45% drop in maternal mortality rates. This is cause for hope.

However, now the speeches are over and the fanfare has died-down, I wonder if we can honestly come together to address the major challenges facing women, children and adolescents everywhere… and put an end to the thousands of needless deaths.

With so many leading organisations involved, including the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, perhaps we just might.


Simon Goldsborough, Account Director, Healthcare