Thank you to the Dutch Government, Bernard van Leer Foundation, the International Confederation of Midwives, and the Dutch Taskforce for Healthcare for hosting us and facilitating this 23rd Board Meeting.
I know that as we sit here in the Hague, all of our discussions are focused upon our shared value and commitment to ensuring that women’s, children’s and adolescents’ health (WCAH) is at the top of national, regional and global agendas. I think it is right, therefore, that the Board Meeting seeks to evaluate and enhance its political engagement at all levels.
At the World Health Assembly this year, alongside Helga Fogstad, PMNCH Executive Director, Dr Tedros Adanhom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director General, and Her Excellency Mrs Emine Erdogan, First Lady of The Republic of Turkey. I commended PMNCH’s Call to Action on Aligning Women’s, Children’s and Adolescents’ Health and Wellbeing in Humanitarian and Fragile Settings.
Given that more than two billion people live under the threat of conflict and emergencies of diverse and complex natures, and that 69 million people have been displaced by humanitarian crises, we need bold steps to enhance coordination and bring together synchronized knowledge, policies and actions for a whole-system approach to achieving health for all, routinely across nations, in order to build the resilience for effective responses in protracted emergencies and in the humanitarian-development nexus. That is why I so strongly support PMNCH’s initiative and call to action, which is best placed to bring us all together – from every sector, region, country and background – to remove the inefficiencies, identify and address gaps of capacity and delivery in every sense.
PMNCH is uniquely positioned to mobilise broader political strategies, and partnerships of all kinds, as it can act as the standard-bearer and interlocutor between the WHO, global institutions, CSOs, governments, the private sector and frontline healthcare workers. This support is invaluable to Governments and healthcare providers, who we can consider to be the duty-bearers.
At the Wellbeing Foundation Africa, of which I am the Founder-President, we have learned the value which emanates from engagement with PMNCH in Nigeria, as members who supported the ‘Saving One Million Lives’ campaign, the promotion of routine administration of the reinforced ORS-Zinc formula for management of diarrhoea, and the Midwives Service Scheme, a public sector collaborative initiative, designed to mobilize midwives, including newly qualified, unemployed and retired midwives, for deployment to selected primary health care facilities in rural communities.
I must report from Nigeria that whilst there has been an improved focus on surveillance – and a growing acceptance of the fact that suitable civil registration and vital statistics systems will be essential if we are to achieve universal health coverage – I hope that these milestones in accountability also able to catalyse improved services at the frontline. That can only be achieved with expanded investment in primary health.
I strongly support the PMNCH position that we must put women, children and adolescents at the heart of universal health coverage. The relationship between achieving health for all and WCAH must be at the core of our advocacy as the former is simply unachievable without significant improvements to the latter.
It is of course no coincidence that women, children and adolescents – despite accounting for 60% of the global population – tend to constitute the groups with the least political influence and power, which is why United Nations, WHO and national policies must explicitly highlight and focus on WCAH as part of their UHC strategies.
Only then can we claim to be truly working towards the principle of “leaving no one behind,” which is central to the Sustainable Development Goals and the Global Strategy for Women’s, Children’s and Adolescents’ Health (2016–2030).
On a final note, as the Global Goodwill Ambassador for the International Confederation of Midwives, one of our co-hosts this week, I must highlight the launch at the World Health Assembly this year, of the report ‘Strengthening quality midwifery education for Universal Health Coverage 2030: A transformative approach to improving quality of care’ produced by ICM, alongside WHO, UNFPA and UNICEF. Women and newborns are the most vulnerable in humanitarian and fragile settings where quality midwifery education saves lives by preparing all midwives to legislate for and respond to emergency health situations. As a critical element in achieving UHC and WCAH, I am sure that we all know that midwives can and do lead the way.
As Nigeria’s first and oldest country member of this esteemed and dedicated alliance, I am honoured by the Wellbeing Foundation Africa’s PMNCH Board Observer Privileges, and delighted to extend a warm welcome to Helen Clark, former Prime Minister of New Zealand, as Chair of PMNCH – who I know will ensure that women’s, children’s and adolescents’ health and wellbeing are reinforced as a global priority. Thank you.