This week India’s leadership will play a key role in defining the security of the world’s fundamental economic and social resource in the 21st century: Its demographic dividend. The government, in collaboration with Every Woman Every Child and support from the Partnership for Maternal Newborn & Child Health, will host over 100 global leaders to discuss the updating of the United Nations Secretary-General’s Global Strategy for Women’s, Children’s, and Adolescents’ Health and the transitioning of the Every Woman Every Child movement into the next development agenda.
This updated global strategy will align with the new Sustainable Development Goals, the successors to the Millennium Development Goals, which will transition in 2015. The updated global strategy will also have a focus on adolescents, education and women’s empowerment.
India faces challenges in this arena, being home to the largest share of maternal and child deaths globally. As such, discussing the updated Global Strategy here is as symbolic as it is vital in sharing lessons learnt to ensure success in the next stage. Outcomes from this meeting will help to drive the global agenda to end all preventable maternal, child and adolescent deaths.
In recent years, India has made great strides toward improving the health of its women and children. Since 1990, maternal mortality rates have come down by two-thirds and child mortality rates have halved. More girls and women than ever before have access to family planning and reproductive health services.
In 2014, the government made reproductive, maternal, newborn, child and adolescent (RMNCH+A) services a central component of the National Health Mission’s mandate. This is a potential game-changer. The government also announced the introduction of new vaccines as part of the Universal Immunisation Programme. The landmark India Newborn Action Plan was released. For the first time, it laid out a roadmap for improving newborn health across the country. Most recently, India launched Mission Indradhanush, to improve immunisation coverage.
Like the rest of the world, India can and will do more to deliver for its women and children. Already, the Every Woman Every Child movement is contributing a great deal to support countries in meeting the health MDGs in this final MDG year, while also helping countries to transition from the MDGs to the SDGs. Success has been underpinned by strong commitment from global leaders at the highest levels, partners’ determination to support implementation efforts at the country-level, accountability for resources and results, ensuring predictable financing for health and championing innovation. These are the same key factors needed for scaling-up ambitious impact for the SDGs.
If we are to realise by 2030 our goals, if we are to end all preventable maternal, child and adolescent deaths, we need first and foremost national leadership to drive the agenda. Crucially, we also need innovative fiscal commitments to support the means of implementation. India has a critical role here. It is a rising economic power and is also home to more women and children than any other country. By 2020, India will have the world’s youngest working population, giving the nation a political responsibility, an economic imperative and an unparalleled opportunity. Because when women and children thrive, so too do communities and nations.
CK Mishra is additional secretary in the ministry of health and family welfare Amina Mohammed is the UN secretary-general’s special adviser on post-2015 development planning
The views expressed by the author are personal