UN’s €30m pledge ‘to save 16 million lives’

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon announced a $40 billion (€29.9bn) drive to improve the health of women and children, which he said would save millions of lives around the world.

Governments, philanthropists and private groups pledged the cash, giving a spectacular end to the UN summit on eliminating poverty, a campaign that has been badly battered by the international financial crisis.

“We know what works to save women’s and children’s lives, and we know that women and children are critical to all of the Millennium Development Goals,” Ban said in a statement.

“Today we are witnessing the kind of leadership we have long needed.”

He estimated his Global Strategy for Women’s and Children’s Health could save 16 million lives by 2015.

Cutting the unnecessary deaths of women during pregnancy and childbirth and stopping the premature deaths of children under five are the two most slowest moving goals of the eight key development targets set a decade ago.

The UN said spending on women and children reduces poverty, stimulates growth and is a fundamental human right.

Some 140 world leaders and heads of state have attended the summit, and US President Barack Obama will close the meet.

Countries from Afghanistan to Zambia – but also including Australia, Britain, China, France, Germany, India, Japan, Russia and the United States – have contributed to the drive.

The foundations of the world’s richest men, Mexican tycoon Carlos Slim and Microsoft billionaire Bill Gates, were among the contributors.

They joined rights groups such as Amnesty International and multinationals such as LG Electronics and Pfizer.

“Never have so many come together to save the lives of women and children,” commented Norway’s Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg, whose country is one of the world’s top aid donors.

Thoraya Obaid, executive director of the UN Populations Fund (UNFPA), called advancing the health and rights of women “one of the greatest social causes of our time”.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said investing in women and children’s health was “an issue that deserves to be at the top of our development agenda”.

A UN statement said the deaths of more than 15 million children under five would be saved between 2011 and 2015 through the initiative.

It added that it would prevent 33 million unwanted pregnancies and 740,000 women from dying from complications relating to pregnancy and childbirth.

It estimated that 120 million children would be protected from pneumonia.

It was unclear how much of the fund announced is a new spending commitment.

The UN said that Britain will spend an additional £2.1bn (€2.4bn) on child and maternal health from 2011 to 2015.

Ban said in a pre-summit interview that child andmaternal health would be the top priorities in the final five years of the Millennium development campaign.

The three-day summit was called to rejuvenate the eight development targets set at the 2000 Millennium summit, aiming to be reached by 2015.

The goals set target of cutting by two thirds the number of children who die before they are five, and reducing the number of women who die during childbirth by three quarters.

From 1990 to 2008 the number of child deaths fell by 28%, but there are stillalmost nine million deaths a year.

The Millennium goals also included cutting the number of people who survive on less than one dollar a day by half, halve the number of people who suffer from hunger, and halt the spread of AIDS and other killer diseases.

Experts say none of the targets will be fully met by 2015.


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