Global Health Initiative Invests in Efforts to Reduce Maternal, Child Mortality

With its commitment to empower women and girls around the world, the United States of America today underlined that USAID-led Global Health Initiative is investing in efforts to reduce maternal and child mortality globally.

On her remarks at Global Health and Diplomacy International Women’s Day Luncheon, Under Secretary Maria Otero

Under Secretary for Civilian Security, Democracy, and Human Rights discussed specific areas that US is prioritizing in the realm of women’s health and its contribution to civilian security: maternal health, sexual and reproductive health, and gender based violence.

A malnourished newborn is fed by her mother at the Maternity Hospital in Kutum, North Darfur, Sudan. UN Photo/Albert Gonzalez Farran

According to Ms. Otero, the GHI aims to equalize gender imbalances related to health, to promote the empowerment of women and girls, and to improve overall health outcomes for women, their families, and their communities.

The GHI is investing in efforts to reduce maternal and child mortality, secure access to family planning and prevent the spread of HIV, among other goals – all of which aim to address and respond to the unique health needs of women and girls, Ms. Otero added.

GHI goal is for women and children to have access to an integrated package of essential health services – from sexual and reproductive health care and HIV/AIDS services, to skilled attendants at childbirth, to immunization services and basic nutrition.

The initiative seeks to increase the participation of women and girls in health care decision-making, especially as it pertains to reproductive health and family planning, Ms. Otero noted

She reports that more than two billion women are under the age of 24 and entering their childbearing years.

However, 215 million women around the world who want to prevent pregnancy lack access to contraception and family planning.

“These numbers call on us to think globally. In particular, we need to promote interventions and innovations that are going to lift the world’s women, and with them, entire populations.” -Ms. Otero

She stresses that real change comes with education and choice. However, she pointed out that these are unfortunately unrealized luxuries to many women around the world.

When a woman does not have access to reproductive health and family planning services, she is more likely to have a child at a younger age and suffer from complications during child birth, Ms. Otero explained.

She reports that nearly half the women in the developing world deliver babies without a nurse, a midwife, or a doctor.

In addition, more than 350,000 women die each year due to complications related to pregnancy and child birth – the majority of those deaths are preventable.

“Ninety-nine percent of these deaths occur among the poorest populations of the developing world.” -Ms. Otero

Despite the daunting numbers challenges, the GHI has made gains and are seeing hope for progress.

According to Ms. Otero, the unacceptably high rate of preventable maternal mortality once considered intractable, has been reduced dramatically – by 34 percent globally between 1990 and 2008.

“In addition, we have forged some excellent partnerships and we continue to make progress in the challenging issues that accompany women’s health. This is an accomplishment that we must celebrate.” -Ms. Otero

The President and Secretary Clinton have elevated the role and rights of women to unprecedented heights in US foreign policy and programming from diplomacy to development to defense.

The United States believes that a society which lifts up women is more likely to have strong economic growth and a stable political system.

And in places where women’s rights are denied, poverty and political oppression often precede and follow, Ms. Otero noted.

“As we pursue a more peaceful, stable world, women are the cornerstone of our progress. Not only on International Women’s Day, but every day.” -Ms. Otero

The U.S. government continues to lay the groundwork for efforts under the U.S. Global Health Initiative (GHI), announcing the first round of “GHI Plus” countries, as well as the program’s governance structure.

GHI is a six-year, $63 billion initiative to help partner countries improve measurable health outcomes by strengthening health systems and building upon proven results.

GHI activities are being implemented in the more than 80 countries where U.S. government global health dollars are already at work.

Mina Fabulous follows the news, especially what is going on in the US State Department. Mina turns State Department waffle into plain English. Mina Fabulous is the pen name of Carmen Avalino, the NewsBlaze production editor. When she isn’t preparing stories for NewsBlaze writers, she writes stories, but to separate her editing and writing identities, she uses the name given by her family and friends.