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Secretary-General Opens U.N. Summit On MDGs With Appeal For World Leaders To Maintain Target Commitments

On the first of the three-day U.N. Summit on the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Monday appealed “to the assembled presidents, prime ministers and kings to use their power to meet U.N. goals to help the world’s poorest by 2015,” the Associated Press reports. 

“General Assembly President Joseph Deiss opened the summit saying: ‘We must achieve the Millennium Development Goals. We want to achieve them. And we can achieve them,'” the news service writes.

Through the MDGs, “[w]e brought new urgency to an age-old mission,” Ban said in an address to the summit. “And now, we have real results. New thinking and path-breaking public-private partnerships. Dramatic increases in school enrollment. Expanded access to clean water. Better control of disease. The spread of technology – from mobile to green.” Ban noted the fragile state of such advances, and “he urged the leaders to deliver the needed resources ‘above all by exercising political leadership,'” the AP writes (Lederer, 9/20).

Ban expressed optimism that the MDG targets could be reached by the 2015 deadline, if donor countries maintain their aid commitments, NPR’s Morning Edition reports (Kelemen, 9/21). “Despite the obstacles, despite the skepticism, despite the fast approaching deadline of 2015, the MDGs are achievable,” Ban said, according to Deutsche Welle (Breitenbach/Levitz, 9/20).

Ban “called on governments to live up to the vision, even in hard financial times. ‘Being true means supporting the vulnerable despite the economic crisis. We should not balance budgets on the backs of the poor. We must not draw back from official development assistance – a lifeline of billions, for billions,’ he said,” the Guardian reports (Boseley, 9/21).

E.U., France Announce Funding Commitments To MDGs; Canadian PM Expected To Announce Increased Pledge To Global Fund

E.U. Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso announced the body’s commitment of $1.3 billion to support the push to achieve the MDGs by the target date of 2015, Agence France-Presse reports. “The money will come from the European Development Fund but has not yet been allocated to specific objectives, the commission said in a statement,” AFP writes, noting the commitment is “one of the biggest new sums announced at the MDG summit” (9/21).

Also at the summit, French President Nicolas Sarkozy “pledged to boost aid to the world’s poorest by 20 percent over the next three years and issued a plea for other developed nations to join him in meeting U.N. antipoverty targets by 2015,” the Associated Press/Philadelphia Inquirer reports. According to the news service, “Sarkozy said France currently donated 10 billion euros (about $13 billion) a year” (Lederer, 9/21).

Meanwhile, Postmedia News/Vancouver Sun examines the appeals made by Sarkozy and Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero to world leaders at the summit to support a financial tax to help raise money for the world’s poor. The article highlights the arguments made by Sarkozy and Zapatero in favor of the global finance tax, and the reaction to such proposals by other world leaders (Edwards, 9/20). Reuters examines the potential for a “financial tax to raise money to combat poverty” as well as other ideas discussed, including greater transparency and coordination to ensure effective use of money by recipient nations and the importance of country-ownership in tackling poverty (Wroughton/Popper, 9/21). CNN also reports on several ideas proposed at the summit for how to reduce global poverty (9/20).

CBC News looks ahead to a speech to be delivered by Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper Tuesday, where he is expected “to announce a significant increase in funding” pledged to the Global Fund To Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria. “Canada already gives $150 million a year to the Global Fund, which is run through a partnership of governments, NGOs and private sector groups,” the news service writes. “It’s unclear how much more Harper will pledge Tuesday, or where the money will come from, since the government has previously said it’s freezing its entire overseas development assistance budget at $5 billion a year to reduce the deficit” (Elliott, 9/20).

NPR notes advocates’ anticipation of President Barack Obama’s address to the summit on Wednesday. “We are really looking for President Obama to give a barnburner of a speech on Wednesday as a global leader who has repeatedly stressed his commitment to achieving the MDG’s since he was on the campaign and as a child of development professionals, we know he gets this stuff,” Oxfam’s Gregory Adams said, according to NPR (9/21).

Media Outlets Report On Challenges Associated With Reaching Reducing Maternal Mortality, Other Goals 

The New York Times reports on the placement of a “maternal death clock” in Times Square to coincide with the U.N. Summit (Haberman, 9/20). “The digital billboard clock, set up by Amnesty International, will tick for three days while world leaders at the United Nations renew their commitments to fulfill the most basic needs of people around the world: food, water, basic health care and sanitation,” AOL News adds (Sharma, 9/20). The clock ticks every 90 seconds, to mark each moment “a woman dies in childbirth somewhere in the world. That is nearly 1,000 women a day,” the New York Times reports (9/20).

“Although global rates of maternal death have been dropping by about 1.5 percent each year since 1980, there is still a long way to go if countries hope to meet United Nations Millennium Development Goal (MDG) 5 by 2015 – a 75 percent reduction in the number of maternal deaths per 100,000 live births from 1990 levels,” Scientific American reports. “Today, an average of 251 women die per 100,000 births, and only 23 countries are on track to reach the MDG, with some countries even moving in the wrong direction,” the article adds.

The article notes how barriers to prenatal care and poor surveillance of the women who die during pregnancy hold back progress toward improving maternal health, and it examines several strategies to help improve maternal outcomes, such as having births attended by skilled health workers and increasing access to family planning services (Wenner/Moyer, 9/20).

PBS NewsHour (Miller, 9/20), Foreign Policy (Dickinson, 9/20) and MSNBC.com (9/20) feature analysis on the global progress toward the MDGs. MSNBC.com also includes an interactive map on the MDGs, produced by the AP (9/20).

The Washington Post examines “dramatic” reductions in global poverty: “Despite the achievement, not everyone is celebrating. … Several of the original eight goals will probably not be met, including slashing the maternal and child mortality rate worldwide. Moreover,the progress on poverty comes with caveats: The absolute number of poor will shrink less than the percentage figure, because of population growth. Many note that the decline in poverty is due in large part to changes in a few big countries – in particular, China” (Sheridan, 9/21).

Also In MDG News: Reducing Maternal Deaths In Nepal; HIV Rates In Cambodia; Bangladesh And Rwanda Reduce Child Mortality

Agence France-Presse examines Nepal’s progress toward several MDGs, particularly relating to the country’s achievements in reducing maternal mortality, as documented in “a 2010 progress report by the government and the United Nations.” According to the report, maternal mortality rates fell “from 850 per 100,000 live births in 1990 to an estimated 229 this year, a reduction of 73 percent,” the news service writes. The article notes the role community organizations and government initiatives have played in motivating women to deliver their babies at hospitals or clinics as opposed to at home (9/19).

Deutsche Presse-Agentur/M&C reports that the U.N. presented Cambodia an award for the country’s efforts to fight HIV (9/20). “The percentage of Cambodians infected with HIV has dropped from 2 percent of adults aged 15-49 in 1998 to a projected 0.7 percent this year, according to a statement issued by the U.N. on Friday,” the Phnom Penh Post reports (Miller, 9/20). “The Royal Government of Cambodia’s response to HIV and AIDS has successfully scaled up HIV prevention, treatment, care and support for people living with HIV in Cambodia and generated benefits at the individual, community and health center level due to a high level of collaboration among all stakeholders, including U.N. agencies, civil society and development partners,” Secretary General of the Cambodia National AIDS Authority Teng Kunthy said, according to Xinhua (9/20).

Reuters reports that the U.N. will award Bangladesh for reducing its child mortality rate “nearly by two-thirds well ahead of the stipulated time-frame.” Ban will present the award to the country’s prime minster at this week’s MDG summit. “The current child mortality rate in Bangladesh is around 2 percent, health officials said without giving details,” according to the news service. Reuters also notes that Bangladesh has made “good progress” in feeding its citizens but is “still struggling for achieving some of the seven other MDGs,” including food insecurity due to natural disasters (9/20).

Rwanda is “on track” to meet MDG 4, the reduction of child mortality, Agence France-Presse reports. Officials credit efforts to prevent and treat malaria and pneumococcal disease for the improvement in child health. Earlier this month, Ban “said Rwanda had made ‘great strides’ in working toward the MDGs, ‘particularly in the area of maternal and children’s health.'”

“Now we have good results with pneumoccocal disease, digestive disease is now on top” of the health ministry’s priorities, Permanent Secretary Agnes Binagwaho said (Vesperini, 9/20).