Maternal, newborn, child and adolescent health

High-level commitment to save the lives of mothers and children in the EMRO Region

Health Ministers meet in Dubai to prioritize accelerating progress towards saving the lives of mothers and children in the Eastern Mediterranean Region (EMRO)

Dubai 30 January 2013 - Under the patronage of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, ministers of health and high-level representatives from 22 countries met in Dubai on 29-30 January to agree approaches to saving the lives of mothers and children and accelerate progress towards achieving MDGs 4 and 5 in the Eastern Mediterranean Region.

Dr Alwan, Regional Director of the WHO Regional Office opened the meeting stating that “the region has seen great progress but many challenges remain. This is why we are here today”. A very enthusiastic response to the call for participation to the meeting and high attendance rate showed the solid commitment from the governments of the region to accelerate action around MDGs 4 & 5.

On the first day of the meeting, partners, including governments, UN Agencies and other partners from the international community reviewed the current situation with a focus in the ten priority high burden countries identified under the United Nations Secretary General’s Global Strategy for Women’s and Children’s Health (Afghanistan, Djibouti, Egypt, Iraq, Morocco, Pakistan, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan and Yemen).

Agencies convening the meeting, including WHO, UNFPA and UNICEF supported countries in the development of plans for scaling up action in all ten countries.

The plans presented realistic scenarios of progress which can be put in place between now and 2015, and the resources needed to execute them. Participants discussed both progress and challenges for all countries, and put on the table possible solutions to achieve more progress, with a strong focus on how to work in partnership with countries and development partners in the region as a whole.

The sessions saw very interactive and animated discussions, and covered a wide range of issues including, but not limited to, the health sector. Amongst others, Minister of Health of Afghanistan, Dr Suria Dalil, said that "empowerment of women is the core and heart of MNCH. Successful examples in the region show that problems can be tackled if we tackle population growth".

On the second day participants welcomed UN Messenger of Peace and Chairperson of Dubai Healthcare City Authority HRH Princess Haya Bint Al Hussein, wife of HH Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum.

In receiving HRH, Dr Alan Alwan thanked her for her tireless efforts for the health of women and children and emphasized that the main message of this regional effort is that nearly one million deaths of women and children can be prevented every year.

Mrs Maria Calivis, Regional Director of UNICEF conveyed admiration and gratitude for the hospitality and commitment of HRH Princess Haya Bint Al Hussein. She noted how efforts in the region, even if commendable and remarkable, are not enough, stating that we have a challenge to consolidate the progress made to date.

Mrs Genevieve Ah-Sue, Regional Director of UNFPA, highlighted how the lifetime risk of maternal mortality for women in the Eastern Mediterranean region ranges from 1 in 490 to 1 in 16 - stating how these numbers are simply unacceptable and our goal is to ensure no woman dies giving life, as it is not only a moral imperative, but it is within our reach.

Princess Haya Bin Al Hussein gave a moving speech. Emphasizing the importance of this effort to move forward, she said “it goes without saying that this is an issue very close to my heart, and welcome very much the efforts to accelerate progress. But this region as a whole, is not on track to meet the MDGs on maternal and child health. And we will judged as a whole. We have three years in which we have to do so much.”

Dubai Declaration

Following declarations of commitments from all countries and organizations present, the participants adopted The Dubai Declaration. Countries agreed to develop and execute national plans for maternal and child health; to take measurable steps to strengthen their health systems; to mobilize domestic and international resources to establish sustainable financing mechanisms.

All participating organizations agreed to improve coordination and accountability between all partners and promote cooperation between countries within the region; to address social and environmental determinants of maternal and child health, such as poverty, gender, water and sanitation, nutrition, and education, and to monitor progress through a regional commission on women’s adolescents’ and children’s health. They noted the critical need to address the inequities that exist within and between countries, and the additional challenges posed in many countries by humanitarian crises.

The Declaration states the importance of monitoring the progress, ensuring linkages to the framework outlined by the accountability process for the Global Strategy and related initiatives. A regional Commission on women's, adolescents' and children's health will be established for this purpose.