Invest in women & children's health, Ramaphosa tells global leaders
President Cyril Ramaphosa says global leaders have to challenge the disregard many communities and countries have for the sexual and reproductive health and rights of women.
He called on countries to invest in interventions for women's, children's and adolescents' health which would yield social and economic benefits that continue throughout life and for generations to come.
Addressing the UN General Assembly on Monday in his capacity as chair of the Global Leaders Network on women's, children's and adolescents’ health, Ramaphosa said in many countries international donor financing for health was waning and hugely fragmented.
It was compounded by the diversion of domestic funding away from women's, children's and adolescents' health in response to the Covid-19 pandemic and other priorities.
Women, children and adolescents face challenges to their health and wellbeing with almost 800 women dying every day from preventable causes related to pregnancy and childbirth.
He said 95% of the deaths were in low and middle income countries with Covid-19 worsening health inequalities.
More than 10-million children lost a parent or caregiver to the virus while 67-million missed out on routine vaccines and 80% lost learning time because of school closures.
“The long-term effects of underdeveloped children on our respective economies will be devastating,” he said. The 78th session of the UN General Assembly in New York was an opportunity to take stock, he said.
“It is an opportunity to agree on bold steps to accelerate the actions needed to achieve the sustainable development goals related to women’s, children’s and adolescents’ health and wellbeing.
“The Global Leaders Network is an opportunity for heads of state and government and other leaders to work together to champion the women, children and adolescent health agenda.”
Heads of state could use their convening power to mobilise peers and advance policies, programmes and financing initiatives for improved outcomes.
“As part of our agenda, we must challenge the disregard in many communities and countries for the sexual and reproductive health and rights of women. We must ensure these issues are openly discussed and addressed,” said Ramaphosa.
“It is more than evident that countries must reduce inequality in access to healthcare. This inequality is catastrophic for economies, political stability, health security and human rights,” he said.
But political leadership means action and accountability and involves the will to make deliberate policy decisions to accelerate progress for women, children and adolescents, while effective leadership champions collaboration to strengthen health and related sectors and to engage women and girls meaningfully in health systems and their reform.
He said the Global Leaders Network will advocate for sustained and enhanced financial investments, contributing to the growth of nations and enabling individuals to reach their highest potential.
“We will also advocate for improved alignment of global financing mechanisms to foster better investment in strategic priorities to meet the health and wellbeing needs of women, children and adolescents.
“Close monitoring and accountability across national, regional and global platforms is essential,” said Ramaphosa.