26 September 2015
At the annual RMNCH Accountability Breakfast, held in conjunction with the yearly meeting of the UN General Assembly, which this year included the historic Summit for Sustainable Development, nearly 300 partners gathered to reflect on what accountability has delivered for women’s and children’s health, and on the critical gaps that remain.
UN Headquarters, New York (September 26, 2015) – At the annual RMNCH Accountability Breakfast, held in conjunction with the yearly meeting of the UN General Assembly, which this year included the historic Summit for Sustainable Development, nearly 300 partners gathered to reflect on what accountability has delivered for women’s and children’s health, and on the critical gaps that remain. Robin Gorna, Executive Director of the Partnership for Maternal, Newborn & Child Health, opened the discussion by noting that this fourth annual event, sponsored by Countdown to 2015, the independent Expert Review Group (iERG) and PMNCH, was an opportunity to assess what has been done over the five years since the 2010 launch of the Secretary-General’s Global Strategy for Women’s and Children’s Health, and what is needed to ensure accountability for the updated Global Strategy for Women’s Children’s and Adolescent Health (2016-2030.
Dr. Zulfiqar Bhutta, co-chair of Countdown to 2015, discussed the persistence of enormous inequities in mortality, coverage of essential health interventions, and quality of care across the 75 Countdown countries, which together account for more than 95% of all maternal and child deaths. He stressed that much more remains to be done, and said that the work of Countdown to 2015 will continue in the Sustainable Development Goal era, particularly in relation to building greater research and analytical capacity at the country level.
A key example of country-level research and driving effective action to save lives is in Tanzania, where a recent Countdown country case study was conducted and published in Lancet Global Health in June 2015. The study’s key findings were presented at the meeting by Dr. Neema Rusibamayila, Director of Preventive Services for Tanzania’s Ministry of Health and Social Welfare, who described the progress Tanzania has made in stimulating rapid declines in neonatal and maternal mortality through focused interventions, guided by data and analysis. She declared, “We are ready for action in Tanzania. Over 60,000 lives per year can be saved.” At the meeting, Dr. Peter Berman also presented recent research of Countdown’s Health Financing Working Group on flows of official development assistance for RMNCH from major global donors to the Countdown countries.
In her keynote address, WHO Director-General Margaret Chan said that work on accountability for women’s and children’s health provides a model for other areas of health and development, and stressed the critical role that independent monitoring and review must play in new accountability mechanisms now taking shape around the updated Global Strategy. Dr Richard Horton and Ms. Joy Phumaphi, co-chairs of the iERG, presented the final iERG report to Dr Chan, who received it on behalf of the UN Secretary-General. The report included recommendations for establishment and implementation of independent global and national accountability mechanisms for the 2016-2030 Sustainable Development Goals, and for the convening of a global ministerial summit in 2017 to report on progress on the Global Strategy.
PMNCH’s 2015 Accountability Report, also launched during the event, shows that 428 commitments have been made to the current Global Strategy by 334 commitment-makers. Nearly three-quarters of financial pledges have been disbursed, but inequalities persist and funding levels remain insufficient overall, so more action is needed. This was echoed by civil society speakers, including youth advocate Joannie Bewa of Benin, who declared that “the voice of every woman, every child, every adolescent everywhere must be legitimized and enabled to participate in country accountability mechanisms.” Philomena Okello, a nurse midwife from Uganda, said that she has seen more progress in the last two years than in her whole 40 year career, which she attributed to citizens hearings that have taken place in her community. “The problem before,” she said, “was that there was no social accountability, but now, people know their rights.”
The Accountability Brunch set the scene for the launch of an updated Global Strategy for Women’s, Children’s and Adolescents’ Health later that day at the UN, and for the launch of Countdown to 2015’s final report, scheduled for release in October 2015 at the Global Maternal & Newborn Health conference in Mexico City.