Washington, D.C., 30 June 2011 (PAHO/WHO) - The Pan American Health Organization/World Health Organization (PAHO/WHO) and UNICEF agreed yesterday (June 29) to work together in the countries of the Americas to reduce maternal and child mortality and improve the health of mothers and children.
PAHO's Director, Dr. Mirta Roses, and UNICEF's Regional Director for Latin America and the Caribbean, Bernt Aasen, together with their aides, met at PAHO/WHO headquarters to identify ways to collaborate effectively in areas related to maternal and child health. The organizations have previously worked together on similar initiatives and in regional forums, as well as in the countries of the Region.
In Latin America and the Caribbean, health indicators for women and children are less favorable than would be expected given current knowledge and available resources. Some 9,500 mothers and 160,000 newborns die in the Region each year due to preventable causes. Mother-to-child transmission of congenital syphilis continues to be a serious public health problem despite being highly preventable.
These problems stem largely from deep inequities that make the Region of the Americas the most unequal in the world. Maternal and neonatal mortality are highest in families that are poor, have less education, live in rural areas or belong to indigenous or afro-descendant groups.
In September 2010, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon launched the Global Strategy for Women's and Children's Health, which calls on countries and development partners to work in a coordinated and complementary way to accelerate progress toward the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals (MGDs). The Commission on Information and Accountability for Women's and Children's Health was established early this year to monitor progress and responsibilities related to these efforts. The commission's report, presented to the 2011 World Health Assembly, has 10 recommendations for follow-up and modification of actions and provides 11 indicators for newborn, child and maternal health to monitor the status of mother's and children's health.
UNICEF and PAHO/WHO have a long history of collaboration in various initiatives and forums at the regional level and in the countries of the Americas. The work of both organizations emphasizes the right to health, the need to strengthen the capacity of health systems, and the importance of addressing the social determinants of health as well as unjust and preventable inequality.
The directors of both institutions agreed in Washington, D.C., to strengthen their joint efforts at the regional level and in their respective country offices, in close dialogue with national and subnational authorities, development partners and social actors.
The joint PAHO-UNICEF efforts agreed upon this week will focus on the following areas:
- Cooperation with the countries of Latin America and the Caribbean to implement the recommendations of the Commission on Information and Accountability for Women's and Children's Health.
- Collaboration on the implementation of the strategy for early child development, to help children reach their full potential in terms of physical, mental and emotional health.
- Strengthening the implementation of the Regional Initiative for the Elimination of Mother-to-Child Transmission of HIV and Congenital Syphilis in Latin America and the Caribbean.
- Urging countries to implement the fundamental principles of the Mexico City Ministerial Declaration "Educating to Prevent," to ensure access to comprehensive sex education and quality reproductive health services for youths, as part of efforts to prevent HIV.