Johannesburg – Health advocates from around the world have demanded that maternal and child health are included in the next set of global goals when the millennium development goals expire next year.

The advocates, who included World Health Organisation boss Dr Margaret Chan, said most developing countries like Kenya are yet to eliminate maternal deaths.

Dr Chan was joined by Nelson Mandela’s widow Graca Machel and more than 800 leaders and public health experts at a landmark two-day meeting in Johannesburg to discuss the post-2015 health agenda.

Graca Machel, Nelson Mandela's Widow speaking at the Johannesburg post-2015 health agenda on Tuesday

Graca Machel, Nelson Mandela’s Widow speaking at the Johannesburg post-2015 health agenda on Tuesday

“The world has made remarkable progress to improve health and expand opportunities over the past 14 years. Despite all efforts, there is still much more to be done,” said Graça Machel. “Women and children have not been covered adequately. We must ensure that all women, adolescent girls, children and newborns, no matter where they live, are able to fulfill their rights to health and education, and realize their full potential.”

Kenya is among the countries that will not achieve their targets for the MDG relating to pregnancy related deaths.

About 8,000 Kenyan women die every year due to preventable, pregnancy related causes.

The MDG five calls on countries to cut by three quarters such deaths and achieve universal access to reproductive health services by 2015.

“There are still 500 days to this target. Still a lot can be done,” said Dr Chan.

Ongoing meeting, called the Partnership for Maternal, Newborn & Child Health (PMNCH) 2014, is drumming support for maternal and child health in the new global goals the United Nations is crafting to replace MDGs.

It was opened by Machel, chair of PMNCH and African Ambassador for Committing to Child Survival: A Promise Renewed, who is making her first public appearance since the end of her mourning period after the death of Mandela.

Yesterday, the leaders also discussed steps to assist countries that have lagged behind and made specific recommendations for how to maintain the focus on women and children within the post-2015 development agenda.

“This global gathering gives us the opportunity to learn from each other’s successes and challenges, and to identify new approaches,” said Dr Aaron Motsoaledi, South African Health Minister.

Despite improvements, 289,000 women across the world still die every year from complications at birth and 6.6 million children do not live to see their fifth birthday, including nearly 3 million newborns.

At least 200 million women and girls are unable to access family planning services that would allow them to control when they have children, according to the WHO.

“There is absolutely no reason for so many newborns to die every year when their lives can be saved with simple, cost-effective solutions,” said Dr. Flavia Bustreo, Assistant Director-General for Family, Women’s and Community Health at the World Health Organisation. “The WHO remains committed to support countries and work with partners as the plan gets implemented, and to the accountability agenda, which includes reporting on progress achieved every year until 2030.”

Source: post2015.org